SCS Board jumps into budget season

The Shelburne Community School (SCS) Board sat down with administrators Dec. 3 to hear about a proposed spending plan and receive a first glimpse at the proposed 2015-16 budget. While the $13,121,869 baseline spending plan is projected to jump, the increase appears to be larger than what Gov. Peter Shumlin is publically calling for individual school boards to send to voters.

A baseline budget, or starting point, was introduced. A baseline budget is what is financially required to open the doors in 2015 and keep it running without significant changes in staffing or programming. Right now, the proposed 2015-16 budget may jump 5.87 percent from the current voter-approved 2014-15 budget of $12,393,989.

According to Bob Mason, chief operations officer for the Chittenden South Supervisory Union (CSSU), the primary reasons for the jump are: Salary and benefit costs under contract; Early Learning Partnership with participating pre-schools; and the consolidation of special education at the SU.

Mason presented the proposed baseline budget, noting the process is in its infancy. The board also met Wednesday, Dec. 17, at SCS for another budget meeting.

Mason went over the baseline budget, explaining its function, object, and CSSU assessments.

According to figures released by CSSU, Shelburne’s proposed special education assessments for 2015-16 are $2,900,104, up from the current $190,111. At the same time, core services are increasing slightly from the current $387,606 to $397,681 for FY 2015-16. Together, core and special education services are projected to come in at $3,298,785; the current amount for those two combined areas is $577,717.

Purchased services, which include technology, the Early Learning Partnership, Connecting Youth program, food services, transportation, English language learners and math coordinators, carry a proposed price tag for 2015-16 of $861,942; an increase from the current amount of $796,556. Combined, the proposed 2015-16 CSSU assessments are $4,159,727.

The board is beginning the budget process in the wake of criticism on how education is funded in Vermont. Property taxes, General Fund revenue, income tax, sales tax, vehicle purchase, and use and lottery proceeds are sources.

Earlier in the month, Shumlin, Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson, and Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe discussed education spending and property taxes.

According to Peterson’ yearly report to the legislature, school spending is projected to jump 3.09 percent for FY2015-16, prompting a 2-cent increase for both residential and non-residential statewide property tax rates. During 2015 March Town Meeting voting, 34 out of 246 Vermont municipalities rejected school spending plans. The last time budgets went down in such numbers was 2003, according to the Vermont School Boards Association.

At the meeting, SCS Co-Principals Pati Beaumont and Allan Miller presented several potential decision packets (potential increases) they would like the board to add to the baseline budget. Mason added he hasn’t seen any “definitive” decision packets from Miller or Beaumont. Among the potential decision packets:

  • Funding for a two-week summer camp for English Language Learners (ELL). Beaumont and Miller say there is a lack of similar programming locally.
  • Hiring a part-time, certified health educator.
  • Add dollars for transportation for students identified as “homeless.” According to CSSU, five SCS currently match that description.

Other potential additions include:

  • Middle school track program. The request is based on the popularity of a recent pilot program which 40 students attended. Right now, baseball and softball are SCS spring sports.
  • Coaches’ training for head injury and concussion recognition.
  • Substitute costs. Increase to match actual expenses felt by SCS.
  • Connecting Youth (CY) Mentoring Program. Administrators are seeking to expand CY fifth through eighth grade mentoring program. Funding would increase from current nine matches to 28 and secure higher community member involvement. Another full day would also be added to the Mentoring Coordinator position as well.