• U-32 school board sharpens the ax
    By David Delcore
     | January 06,2014
     

    EAST MONTPELIER –— The U-32 School Board is poised to consider an administrative proposal to cut as many as four full-time teachers, the equivalent of a fifth, a special educator, a paraprofessional and 50 percent of one of the school’s two librarian positions when it meets Wednesday night.

    The proposed staffing cuts total just over $450,000 and would represent a net savings of more than $390,000 once revenue that would be lost, if some of the positions are eliminated, is factored into the equation.

    The board has already made a series of cuts, trimming the 10 percent spending increase reflected in the first draft of the budget for the junior-senior high school, which serves students from Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester, to just over 7 percent.

    That’s where things stand heading into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. meeting.

    The budget’s bottom line now sits at $15.1 million — $1 million more than the $14.1 million figure that voters in the five-town union high school district collectively approved last March. Barring further reductions the tax impact of the proposed budget would be an increase of about 4.1 percent

    That’s higher than school officials would like, prompting the prioritized list of staffing reductions that was prepared for the board’s consideration.

    Most of the proposed cuts involve a junior high school program that, due to declining enrollment, has unusually low class sizes.

    According to school officials there are 12 students in the average seventh- and eighth-grade classes at U-32. That number, they said, would jump up to 19 if the board approves all of the staff reductions that have been proposed.

    Those cuts include one of six junior high school math teachers, three of nine “core” teachers responsible for students in seventh and eighth grades, as well as a special educator and full-time paraprofessional.

    Only some of those positions — the math teacher, one of the core teachers, the special educator and the paraprofessional — are included in the top tier of cuts that would result in a net savings of about $175,000 and bring the tax impact of the budget just below 3 percent.

    The administrative proposal suggests the board consider cutting half of a librarian’s position ($31,075) and the equivalent of a full-time teaching position by targeting high school classes with low enrollment ($62,150), before cutting an additional two core teachers from the junior high school ($124,300).

    If all of the cuts are approved the U-32 spending increase would drop just below 4 percent and the tax impact of the budget would be an increase of roughly 1.3 percent.

    That would shave between 2.6 and 3.2 cents off projected tax rate hikes in all five communities. Based on soon-to-be-finalized elementary school budgets those rate hikes range from a low of 10.7 cents in Berlin to a high of 24.8 cents in Calais.

    East Montpelier is looking at an 18.2-cent rate hike if nothing changes at U-32 Wednesday night, while the increase in Middlesex and Worcester have been tentatively pegged at 15.5 cents and 17.8 cents respectively.

    Those figures are based on soon-to-be-finalized elementary school budgets and were recently adjusted to reflect changes to the common level of appraisal (CLA) in all five communities.

    Though the CLA, a calculation the state uses to equalize the tax burden in all Vermont towns, remained relatively stable in East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester, it rose nearly 3.4 percent in Berlin and dropped almost 6 percent in Calais.

    The overnight effect trimmed roughly 5.2 cents from the projected rate hike in Berlin and added 10.9 cents to the projected rate increase in Calais.

    david.delcore@timesargus.com

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