School board approves budget

At the Champlain Valley School District school board meeting on January 21, the board weighed educational goals, equity concerns, and various budget constraints to approve a budget that will be put in front of the voters on March 2 and 3. Among the educational needs and goals were the immediate needs for a guidance counselor and administrative support at CVU, and the imperative to ensure equity among all schools in their educational offerings and support services. In addition there is an effort to provide more intensive services within the district for students with emotional and behavioral problems. These requests were met by reshuffling of personnel, creatively using grants, and requesting additional personnel.

The constraints that affected budget decisions were the increase in health care costs of 13 percent for salaried employees and the enrollment of special education students who need more intensive services. By applying $750,000 from the fund balance to the revenue side of the budget, the increase in net education spending is projected to be 4 percent. This amount will increase the tax rate from $1.45 to $1.48. The budget and the use of the fund balance will be in front of the voters in March.

The board spent a considerable amount of time discussing the capital budget. The board’s intent is to begin to build a five-year capital plan that deals with school maintenance and improvements in a timely fashion. This will prevent problems that can become too large as maintenance needs are not addressed. Because this is the first capital needs request under the new CVSD, there was concern that the size of the bond issue might surprise voters who are used to voting on bonds for individual schools. An effort will be made by the B\board to communicate to the voters that these capital requests are now for all schools in the district and will be larger than previous individual school requests.

The board voted to address the current needs of Charlotte Central School, Shelburne Community School, Hinesburg Community School, and Allenbrook School in a request to the voters for approval of a bond issue for $6,000,000. Charlotte Central School faces problems that have been present for some time, concern security and student health, and cannot be delayed. Temperatures in some classrooms are in the 90s in the warmer months and cold in the winter. Ventilation and mechanical systems are inadequate. Doors and windows are leaking resulting in increasing heating bills. The repairs and improvements of CCS are proposed to be $4,500,000.

The other schools need improvements in grounds and building security upgrades and are expected to be $1,500,000. It is the board’s intent to use the five-year capital plan to address building improvement needs in a prioritized fashion, perhaps mitigating the need for large bond issues. This approach will educate the voters to the fact that the capital budget will now address maintenance and improvement of six district schools, instead of one.