The December 3 Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) Board meeting focused on a discussion of the FY 2021 general instructional budget and the difficulties of aligning board goals and vision with budget realities. Superintendent Elaine Pinckney guided the board through the process of how the budget is developed through planning meetings with principals and building staff.

Consolidation of school districts means moving from a supervisory union budgeting process to a districtwide budget. Individual school budgets, once developed autonomously, are now included in a district budget that seeks to ensure equitable opportunity for each student across all schools. This equity effort focuses on uniform class size and staff ratios in the area of related arts and social-emotional support that reflect the state Educational Quality Standards.

In a series of meetings with principals, the central office staff elicited their recommendations for personnel and program needs in a number of areas. These areas include equitable services across schools, instructional program enhancements that have been identified as board goals, responses to the challenges for support in the area of social emotional learning, and administrative leadership needs at the high school.

Health care costs will rise to 13.5 percent in FY 21. There is a possibility that the district will see higher enrollment and required programming for students with social and emotional challenges. At present the high school is straining to meet counseling and administrative duties and has asked for additional personnel in leadership and counseling.

Much of the needed budget increases occur in areas where the district has little control. In the face of this situation, several board members expressed concerns that responding to individual school needs by adding personnel may increase the budget beyond what is palatable for the community.

The next board budget meeting on December 17 will focus on operations, which may offer an opportunity to identify savings that will enable some of the instructional program enhancements to be implemented while keeping the budget increase to a more reasonable amount.