Here’s the article from the Vermont Standard on our town’s rejection of the School Budget, and the School Board’s follow-up. This is verbatim from the Vermont Standard, 3/20/14.
Note that the date for the town vote on the revised budget is April 28. Before that, the School Board will meet on April 9 at 4:15 pm to finalize preparations for the re-vote, as part of the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting.
Plymouth Cuts About 4 Percent From Defeated Budget
By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
PLYMOUTH – There was no outrage nor Plymouth residents in attendance Monday night at Fletcher Farm in Ludlow, where school board members and the supervisory union officials trimmed about $40,000 from the defeated $1.028 million Plymouth School District budget.
Whether due to the location or time of the meeting, officials made cuts unceremoniously to an empty audience at Two Rivers Supervisory Union’s new location.
“It’s come down substantially,” said Two Rivers Supervisory Union Director of Finance Chris Adams. “We’ll do everything that we can do to make it even less but, in fairness across the state, that’s the number you are. It’s the best we’ve got today.”
Angry residents turned down the Plymouth School District budget at Town Meeting on March 4.
“These numbers are absolutely outrageous,” said local resident Anne Cherico at Town Meeting. “We need to vote down this budget and send a message to Montpelier that we’re not going to tolerate this anymore.”
A proposed sum of $988,457 to support the School District costs for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is now on the table for voters to consider. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will take place on April 9 at 4:15 p.m. at Fletcher Farm. Agenda items will include finalizing the flier, developing transportation policy and procedures, residency, and an update on tax rate factors.
“This new figure is about a thirteen percent change in the tax rate,” said A. Bruce Williams, Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent.
The amount is a 27.61 percent increase over the 2013-14 budget of $774,594 versus the original 32.75 percent.
School Board members will prepare a flier to be placed in the Town Clerk’s office that will highlight the recently approved budget changes and accompanying justifications.
Monday, April 28 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall has been slated for residents to vote on the newly approved school budget.
Reasons for the sustained, if lessened, increase over FY14 remains constant, said board chair Julie Dupont and Adams, and include the state funding formula, an unexpected increase in enrollment, and an estimated rise in the statewide property tax homestead rate.
Other statewide factors raised in Town Meeting include the unavailability of a one-time multimillion educational fund surplus, an increase in statewide education spending by 3.8 percent, or $46.5 million, the rise of non-property tax revenues, the decline of the statewide education grand list, and an increase in the base tax rate on household income.
At the municipal level, other reasons that come into play include an increase in the statewide grand list resulting in the adjustment of school tax rates, loss of such revenue sources as federal aid, and declining enrollment that has a significant impact on education tax rates.
The proposed new amount, however, appears to be more in line with the actual budget, according to Dupont, which is based on the census of 54 students.
“The only thing that changed was the elementary and secondary tuitions based on a census that we were not aware of at the time in presenting the budget in the first place,” said Adams. “Four students have moved out since town meeting. Those will not be counted any more, and two of students will receive reimbursement because of their special class.”
Adams said the board was also not aware of the final tuitions of all the towns that students were attending at the time of Town Meeting.
“Some were higher than anticipated,” said Adams.
On the revenue side, board members had also not included the tuition reimbursement from state-placed children in the budget.
In addition, the fund balance from the previous year had not been included on the revenue side.
“We had been told by our auditor that we had a negative fund balance in the year that ended in FY13,” said Adams. “We built our budget based on that being factual. But we have realized that there was no deficit from last year, and so the total swing from a negative to a plus was $60,000 to $90,000.”
Adams also noted that another factor impacting the budget is the state House Ways and Means Committee changing the anticipated district equalized homestead tax rate to 99 cents versus the $1.01 that was the preliminary amount upon which the original budget was based, he said.
Lastly, Dupont explained to board members that she had recently met with Rep. Alison Clark (D-Windsor 5) to discuss the implications of a one-time caveat or rider for the non-operating Plymouth school district that might lower the school district costs even more.
“Alison suggested I contact the Vermont School Board Association to perhaps have a non-operating school district summit to see how others do it,” said Dupont.
Accordingly, Adams added, Clarkson might agree to a rider by which expenses would be the same but taxes different based on the state formula.
“A rider allows you to escape the 3 percent ceiling,” said Adams. “Riders are for towns that are overburdened.”
Williams agreed. “It’s a waiver to let you count all the kids you have which helps with the tax rate in any given year but evens out over the long run, but can be very painful in the short run,” said Williams. “Perhaps Clarkson can push it through the legislature.”
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