by Andrew Martin
Town Meeting 2014 is quickly approaching and all over Lamoille County school and selectboards are finalizing budgets while town reports are being prepared to be shipped out to the voters in each town. The schools of the Lamoille South Supervisory Union (LSSU) have all finalized their budgets, with each district seeing an increase in both the proposed budget and resultant tax rate.
The proposed budget for the Stowe School District is up slightly for FY14. Budgeted expenditures for the upcoming year are $11,226,400, a total that is up $611,375 from the $10,615,025 that was budgeted for FY13. The increase in budgeted expenditures for the upcoming year is due to a number of factors, with a main one being the budgeting of a kindergarten position that was created last year and not budgeted at that time. Other staff changes that are incorporated into the upcoming budget include the addition of a fulltime fifth grade teacher as well as additions to several other already existing part-time positions that will now become fulltime. Other expenses that fueled the increase in expenditures include changes in teacher and support staff benefits and salary, the LSSU assessments, vocational tuition, and energy costs.
While the budgeted expenditures in Stowe are proposed to increase, so too are the budgeted revenues. In FY13 budgeted revenues for the Stowe School District were $1,774,450, but for FY14 that figure is up $353,500 to $2,127,950. The budgeted expenditures and revenues for FY14 mean that the total education spending for the upcoming year is $9,098,450, which when combined with the 656.83 equalized pupils in the district, means that the education spending per equalized pupil in Stowe for FY14 is $13,852.
In Vermont the adjusted equalized tax rate is set at the state level, and while that figure can still change, the current estimates of an adjusted equalized tax rate is $1.423, up from $1.369 last year. That figure combined with the above information and the common level of appraisal in Stowe of 96.13 percent means that for FY14 Stowe would have an estimated local tax rate of $1.480, a figure that is up from the $1.428 of FY13. The $1.43 adjusted equalized tax rate for non-homestead tax rate for the town means that the estimated local tax rate for non-homesteads is $1.488 for FY14.
The proposed budget for the Morristown School District saw an increase in proposed expenditures similar to Stowe’s. For FY14 the Morristown proposed expenditures would come in at $13,451,250, a total that is $667,425 more than the $12,783,825 in expenditures in FY13. Like Stowe, one of the reasons for the increase in expenditures at Morrisville is due to increases in salary and changes to the health insurance and benefits of some employees. Other areas asking for an increase in expenditures include assessments to the supervisory union, student specific needs, a new contract for grounds maintenance during the summer, and transportation.
While the proposed budgeted expenses in Morristown are up, again the expected revenues for FY14 have also increased. In FY13 budgeted revenues were $3,585,600, but that number has increased to $3,677,600 for FY14. Given the figures for budgeted expenditures and budgeted revenues, education spending in Morristown for FY14 is proposed to be $9,773,650, which is an increase of $575,425 over education spending in the last budget.
Morristown has a total of 799.87 equalized pupils listed in their proposed budget, meaning that the education spending per equalized pupil will be $12,219 for FY14. Using the state set figures and formulas, these figures would translate to an estimated local tax rate of $1.252 for FY14, a figure that is up from the rate of $1.182 from FY13. Similarly, the estimated non-homestead tax rate would also rise slightly, from $1.421 in FY13 to $1.426 in the proposed budget.
In addition to the proposed budgets, residents of Morristown will also be voting on two special articles at Town Meeting related to the school. Special Article I is a request for $250,000 that would be used to meet various facility needs, a figure that would add 3.2 cents on the tax rate. Special Article I would fund a plan to redo the sidewalks and curbing at Morristown Elementary School in order to alleviate safety concerns while also funding a plan to paint the cafeteria and gym at the elementary school. Other projects that the $250,000 would fund would include replacing blinds at the elementary school, replacing lockers and flooring at Peoples Academy Middle Level, and a new card swipe entry system at the middle level and high school.
The second article residents must vote on is Special Article II, which asks voters to pass a $1,500,000 bond to upgrade the athletic facilities for the Morristown School District. The bond, which would raise the tax rate 1.3 cents, would fund the reconstruction of the PA track, which is projected to cost $1,125,000. A related reconfiguration of the baseball field would also occur, costing $175,000. The parking lot and access to the soccer field would also be modified as part of the project for $200,000. A reconstruction of the tennis courts at a cost of $150,000 and new bleachers and lockers at the PA gymnasium costing $75,000 would also be funded by the bond vote. In total, the project is expected to cost $1,725,000, with the extra $250,000 being covered by funds voters approved last year for the purpose of upgrading the athletic facilities.
The Elmore School District is also seeing a slight rise in its proposed budget. An increase of $220,100 in proposed expenditures brings that figure up to $1,901,950, which is a 13.1 percent increase over the FY13 expenditures of $1,681,850. According to LSSU Superintendent Tracy Wrend the increase is due in part to the increase in tuition costs next year. However, available revenues for Elmore have increased at an even greater rate, from $324,375 in FY13 to $410,275 in FY14. This increase of $85,900 amounts to a 26.5 percent upswing in expected revenues.
These figures mean that for FY14 the education spending in Elmore is $1,491,675, an increase of 9.9 percent. With 115.74 equalized pupils in the district, the education spending per pupil for FY14 would be $12,888, a figure up $1,533 from the figure of $11,355 in FY13.
These figures translate to a local homestead tax rate of $1.3173, which is up 27.1 percent from the rate from FY13 of $1.0363. Similarly, the non-homestead tax rate would be $1.4229, a change of $.188 or 15.3 percent over the FY13 rate of $1.2345. Despite the increase, Superintendent Wrend still feels that Elmore will continue to have one of the lowest school tax rates in the state.
The budget for the Lamoille South Supervisory Union has also risen in the proposal for FY14. The total proposed budget for LSSU is up $99,550 to a total of $2,627,300 for FY14. This translates to a 3.9 percent increase from the FY13 budget of $2,527,750. According to Superintendent Wrend the budget has increased for a variety of reasons, including changes to the benefits and health care packages of employees, the addition of the transportation budget to the LSSU budget rather than school budgets, and the creation of the pre-school program for the supervisory union.
“All the districts in the Lamoille South Supervisory Union have a long history of being fiscally responsible and thoughtful while balancing the needs of the students and the ability of the community to pay,” stated Superintendent Wrend, “These budget proposals do just that.”
The Public Information Meeting on the proposed school budget in Elmore will be held at a different time than usual in 2013. According to Superintendent Wrend the meeting will now be held on Wednesday, February 27, rather than earlier in the month. The time of the meeting has been moved to a later date in order to ensure that people already have their Town Reports and can attend the meeting to ask any questions they may have rather than waiting until Town Meeting to ask those questions.