School board hammers out $78.9 million budget

By SCOOTER MACMILLAN

The Champlain Valley School District School Board is contemplating a budget for 2020 that bumps up spending more than $2 million for the 2019-20 school year.

If given final approval by the school board and the public, the proposed budget would increase spending by 2.7 percent from $76.8 million this year to $78.9 million for next year.

The approximately $2.1 million increase comes from an expected almost $1.2 million increase in salaries and benefits, a $573,000 increase in special education costs, and a $390,000 increase in operations and management costs.

Jeanne Jensen, the district’s chief operations officer, presented the spending plan to the board at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Superintendent Elaine Pinckney was absent from the meeting for a family emergency, as was Chair Lynne Jaunich, who was injured in a bad fall. Vice Chair Colleen MacKinnon was traveling. School Board member and former Chair Dave Connery filled in to run the meeting.

If the budget is approved by voters on Town Meeting Day, the education property tax rate for Charlotte would be the same as it was this year at $1.49.

For Hinesburg, the tax rate would increase a penny to $1.46 per $100 of property value. For Shelburne, it would go up 1 cent to $1.53, for St. George up 2 cents to $1.56, and for Williston up 4 cents to $1.53.

School officials said they expect enrollment next year to drop slightly. The current enrollment for the school district is 3,877, and the district expects 3,815 students for the 2019-20 school year, a decline of 1.5 percent.

The district proposes average class size ratios of one teacher for 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, one to almost 21 students in grades 4-8, and a range of one teacher for 16-22 students at Champlain Valley Union High School.

The district plans to eliminate one kindergarten/first grade teaching position at Hinesburg Community School, one at Charlotte Central School, and one at Shelburne Community School. At least one K-1 teacher will be added at Williston, but for now, school officials said they plan to hold a position open for the option of adding another teacher there if numbers go up.

“We are holding money in the budget in case kindergarten class sizes come in higher and we need to add one position back,” Jensen said in an email. “We are confident that we will have at least one retirement this year, and so reducing by one teacher will be handled through attrition. No one will be told they no longer have a job.”

She pointed out that the school board had directed the school system to focus on Essential Arts (art, music, physical education and world language) in the four elementary schools and she showed data for the ratio of teachers to students for the program.

Jensen said the teacher-to-student ratios are different among the elementary schools, but the results are very similar.

As long as the Essential Arts programs are getting good results at each school, Jensen said, she doesn’t think that Superintendent Pinckney will direct principals to change what they are doing.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in Room 160 at CVU to finalize the budget that voters will consider on Town Meeting Day.

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