SVSU board begins fiscal 2021 budget talks

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BENNINGTON — The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board is considering a fiscal 2021 budget with an increase of nearly 6 percent over last fiscal year.

SVSU Director of Finance and Operations Renee Gordon said Wednesday that the board is at the beginning of its budget process, and reviewed the first draft of the spending plan at a meeting Tuesday.

"As is typical, changes will be made in the coming weeks as more information becomes available," she said. "The most significant item we are awaiting is the arbitrator's decision on the statewide health benefits. The decision should be released on or before December 15th, and it could have a significant budgetary impacts. We'll know more when the decision is announced."

This first budget draft, projects an increase of 5.83 percent in overall expenditures — $1.5 million more than the fiscal 2020 budget.

The largest change comes from salaries and benefits, which are expected to increase more than $1 million in total.

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Salary adjustments are to be determined for all employees, as teacher and education support personnel (ESP) collective bargaining agreements are being negotiated for fiscal 2021, according to budget notes for the draft.

There are also several proposed position changes, including two new paraprofessionals at Molly Stark Elementary School, a new speech and language pathologist for early childhood programs and a new special education teacher for early childhood programs, according to the notes.

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On the benefits side, health insurance negotiations of statewide healthcare coverage are to be settled by Dec. 15. Benefits have also been budgeted for proposed position changes, according to the notes.

Two budget categories are projected to decrease: supplies and equipment, with decreases of $29,594 and $4,606, respectively.

According to the notes, the decrease for supplies is due to a large curriculum purchase budgeted in fiscal 2020. The reduction for equipment comes from reallocation of some budget lines to supplies.

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The SVSU includes the Southwest Vermont Union Elementary, North Bennington and Mount Anthony Union school districts. Districts vote on their own budgets; the SVSU budget is the only budget in the supervisory union not directly considered by voters.

The SVSU's $25.4 million fiscal 2020 budget reflected an increase of 4.97 percent over fiscal 2019.

That overall increase had gone down slightly from the preliminary fiscal 2020 budget, which included an expected overall increase of 4.99 percent.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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