Getting REDdy

LONDONDERRY - The implementation of the new Regional Education District (RED) took another step forward at the end of last month when the RED's $8,178,562 budget was approved.

The new RED - which is the only RED in the state - will go into effect on July 1 and become part of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union. When that happens, both the RED and the BRSU will achieve savings, according to Superintendent of the BRSU Daniel French.

"The RED moving, once formed, to the BRSU is the source of savings for both the RED and the BRSU districts. So, the joining of the RED to the BRSU is going to save the original nine BRSU districts about $148,000 in central office costs this year," said French. "The RED itself is saving in central office costs with the move to the BRSU because they're moving from a smaller supervisory union to a larger one For the RED, the RED's saving about $100,000 a year in central office costs by that move."

The $148,000 in savings is not only the result of the RED joining the BRSU, but the Winhall School District as well. At last year's Town Meeting, Winhall voters approved an article asking whether or not they should apply to the State Board of Education to be reassigned from the Windham Central Supervisory Union to the BRSU effective as of July 1 of this year.

By voluntarily creating the new Regional Education District, the towns of Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru and Weston - the towns that comprise the RED- were able to take advantage of some financial incentives.

One of those incentives was a $150,000 transition grant provided by the state to support the transition costs. However, some of the incentives also benefit the taxpayers.

"In terms of the mechanics of Act 68, in the first year there's an 8 cent reduction on the property tax rate. So that's an incentive that the Mountains Town RED is taking advantage of this budget year. They get an 8 cent reduction right off," said French.

The tax rate for the new RED is $1.53 per hundred dollars of assessed property value after the eight cent reduction, French said. However there is a caveat in the law that states when a RED is formed any town that joins the RED shall not vary more than 5 percent, French said.

"So, all the districts except for Peru benefited from that cap," French said. "So, off the top 8 cent reduction and then the five percent cap on change."

With the new rate in place, French said it is expected that the tax rate for Landgrove will be $1.29, Londonderry $1.38, Peru $1.35 and Weston $1.52 after the Common Level of Appraisal is assessed.

The Common Level of Appraisal measures how far from market value properties are selling. At 109 for example, the CLA says on average the values of homes are 9 percent over market value.

The benefits to creating the RED are not merely monetary though, according to Chair of the Mountain Towns RED board Wendell Coleman.

"Speaking partly for myself and I think overwhelmingly for the citizens of the RED, we've got four towns very committed to the idea of high school choice and we felt this move was the best thing that we could possibly do to protect that out into the future," he said. "It seemed to give us by far the best chance of maintaining that. That was I think the overwhelming sentiment and one that I certainly subscribed to."

Another benefit of forming the RED, in terms of the tax rate, is that none of the districts are in the penalty area of the law of Act 68.

"A couple of the communities I understand were in the penalty threshold area. [That] means they were paying extra under the funding formula," French said. "By forming the RED, none of the towns are in a penalty aspect. The RED is not in the penalty aspect of the law."

With the BRSU growing, French said that they have added two new full time positions. In a telephone interview three weeks ago, French said they would soon be advertising for a Special Education Director and that they had hired Lori Langevin as the accounts payable payroll clerk. Langevin was previously an employee of the Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union to which the towns of Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru and Weston currently belong.

Follow on Twitter @BrandonCanevari.


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