At this time of year the days are a little bit longer and Vermonters all over the state turn their thoughts to…Town Meeting Day. Over the last three months the Board of the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD), along with district administration and local volunteer “budget buddies,” have put together what we believe is a fiscally conservative yet strategic and forward-thinking budget. On March 6, the voters of our district will be asked to approve our budget and four separate articles to address essential functions.
This fall the board adopted a strategic financial model that allows us to continue to deliver high quality educational programs while keeping costs in line with inflation indices. We started by giving our administration the goal of developing a budget with increases of no more than 2.3 percent from the prior year, which they did. In addition we set objectives to accelerate savings made possible through district consolidation. Other objectives included reducing our fund balance (cash reserves) in a responsible manner and developing a long-term facilities management plan. Throughout the budget development process, we have worked with administration and sought community input to develop a coordinated approach to ensuring equity of resources across schools, providing for innovative learning and supporting academic success for all students.
Four ballot questions are before voters on March 6
1. Article VIII asks voters to approve a consolidated budget for operating all schools in the five towns of the 4,000-student Champlain Valley School District for the next fiscal year starting July 1, 2018. The proposed budget for operations and maintenance of our six schools is $76,838,041, an increase of 2.3 percent from the prior year.
Budget increases are due in part to the increases in costs of goods and services such as energy and salaries. Offsetting increases are reductions in the costs of health care premiums, supplies, legal and auditing charges. Other increases in the budget are due to debt service on construction projects. We estimate that the proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $15,749 per equalized pupil, an increase of approximately 2.3 percent. Our cost per pupil is near the state average and meets Governor Scott’s recent challenge to limit increases in per pupil spending to less than 2.5 percent.
2. Article IX asks voters to approve applying some of the district’s fund balance to offset taxes. Because consolidation allows for pooling all revenue and expenses, the district is in a position to draw down cash reserves left over from prior years’ budgets. This article asks voters to authorize the Board of School Directors to assign $750,000 as revenue for the 2018-2019 school year (reducing the tax amount needed to be raised in this year’s budget cycle) and assign the remaining $1,625,877 as revenue for future budgets.
3. Article X asks voters to authorize borrowing up to $485,000 for the purpose of purchasing six school buses. Currently, the district has a fleet of 59 buses. Our goal is to replace five to six vehicles each year, keeping the average age of a bus to eight years. Transportation for Charlotte Central School, which currently contracts with an external vendor, will be brought in-house next year, thereby leveraging our existing infrastructure and lowering overall transportation costs.
4. Article XI relates to the use of existing construction bond funds. Due to excellent fiscal management of the 2016 building improvement project for Shelburne Community School, there are cash reserves remaining of $819,665. This article asks for authorization to use the funds to complete mechanical upgrades in Shelburne not covered by that bond and to make other mechanical, electrical and structural upgrades and repairs to Allen Brook School in Williston, Charlotte Central School and Hinesburg Community School. This will not increase tax rates as this is not new money but money that has already been borrowed and set aside for school construction.
To provide further opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback, we have offered a series of budget information meetings across the CVSD. There is one remaining in Charlotte on March 5 at 6:00 p.m. at CCS. You are welcome to attend. In addition our website page, has many resources, including our Annual Report, our FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget Flyer, FAQs and presentation slides shared during the budget development meetings. Hard copies of our Annual Report can be found at each school and town office or can be mailed to you by calling (802) 985-1914. The CVSD Board Budget Meetings were recorded and can be viewed at the Regional Educational Television Network website. Finally, email us with any questions.
CVSD Board of Directors: Dave Connery (Chair), Erik Beal, Kelly Bowen, Erin Brady, Russ Caffry, Lynne Jaunich, Joan Lenes, Colleen MacKinnon, Ray Mainer, Kevin Mara, Amanda Marvin, Brandon McMahon