BVSU board to begin budget process

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ARLINGTON — The board of the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union will begin looking at measures to prevent what could be a large budget increase next year.

Superintendent Judy Pullinen said she would like to have a discussion with board members about budget drivers at their Oct. 14 meeting. "We've already found out that the health insurance is projected to go up 7.9 percent," she said, "which is the biggest increase we've had in years, at least five."

Under this year's legislation, Act 46, BVSU will be prohibited from increasing its budget by more than $85,000 from last year. Tax rates in districts that exceed the cap, which is variable based on the district in question, could see their tax rates double.

Board Chair K. John Smith was concerned that that increase, as well as a 3 percent negotiated raise for teachers, a 2.75 percent raise for support staff, and the implementation of pre-K for three-year-olds, will push the BVSU well over that limit. Doing the math on paper, Smith estimated that those increases alone would equate to a budget increase of over $170,000, which business manager Eleanor Frechette estimated would be closer to $200,000.

"You're at $170-200 thousand, and you've got an $85,000 cap, so you've already got to cut $150,000 from the budget," said Smith.

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Pullinen said the business office has been discussing ways of making those cuts without cutting any staff. Pullinen also said the state is holding guidance meetings about the Act 46 ceiling, which the Agency of Education does not refer to as a spending cap, and suggested that there could be a legislative solution.

In July, Allen Gilbert, director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his non-profit group would legally represent any school district that exceeded the cap. "We put out the word that we will entertain the requests of any school districts who want to be represented," he was quoted in Vermont Digger as saying, "We think in order to serve kids fairly we would look at taking them on as a client."

Another group, Campaign for Vermont, is also calling for the repeal of Act 46 due to the spending cap.

"You can't count on that," said Smith, who noted that legislative change would likely not come until May, when the budget would have to be decided on by January and approved by voters in March.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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