The Dec. 17 CVSD School Board meeting focused on the operations budget, the part of the budget that deals with maintenance, food service, transportation and technology services. This side of the budget also includes the management of the capital-needs budget.

The same drivers behind a budget increase in general and special education are present in the operation side of the budget. The increased cost of personnel health care, which is rising 13 percent for FY 2021, combined with possible increases in the student count, administrative needs at the high school, and provision of equitable services among the district schools will push the budget increase to a possible 3.9 percent this year.

The need to provide equity among district schools is evident in several areas that will require additional personnel or a redeployment of existing personnel. Areas needing equity adjustments are STEM coding staff, planning room staff in some schools, and counseling and administrators at CVU. Some of these positions will be funded through Medicaid and other means.

Compared with other high schools in Vermont, CVU is at the bottom of the ranking of guidance counselors per students. Each guidance counselor at CVU has a caseload of over 300 students. A list of these guidance duties ranges from college readiness, applications and testing to daily crisis intervention and follow-up for students having difficulty. It was generally acknowledged that covering this wide a range of needs is not possible with the current guidance staff.

Discussions of operations indicated that an additional halftime person is needed in the transportation department, and changes are recommended in the foodservice area to move the ever-increasing benefits package to the general education budget. The board also discussed the need for a communication plan that explains the capital budget to the community.

The board acknowledged that its goal as a new district to ensure equity in services across all schools has been accomplished quickly and has also increased costs. It expects that, after the basic equity accomplishments of the past two years have been completed, schools will have achieved an equal baseline of services and that further adjustments will not primarily be driven by equity needs.