T&G board sends 0.9 percent increase to voters
MANCHESTER — After discussing some recent changes since the last meeting, the Taconic & Green Regional School District unanimously approved its fiscal year 2020 budget to present at Town Meeting on Tuesday.
Voters will be asked to approve a budget of $32,178,698 for the 2020 fiscal year. The proposed budget is an increase of 0.9 percent over the $31,885,710 approved last year. The revised budget also shows a change to the preliminary projected tax rate. While definitive numbers have not yet arrived from the state, the projected adjusted equalized tax rate shows a decrease of $0.006 from $1.554 per $100 of assessed property value last year to $1.548 in 2020. The modification is a smaller decrease than the projection discussed at the last meeting on Dec. 18, which showed a decrease of $0.014 from $1.554 per $100 of assessed property value last year to $1.540 in 2020.
The warning, which was also unanimously approved Tuesday evening, includes three warned articles totaling $428,327 that, if approved, would bring the total appropriations to $32,607,025.
Articles 12, 14, and 16 on the annual meeting warning request the additional funds. Article 12 asks voters to approve a sum of $263,327 for the building and grounds reserve fund.
Articles 13 and 15 on the warning would establish a bus reserve fund and a technology equipment reserve fund, respectively, if approved. Article 14 asks voters to appropriate $125,000 for the bus reserve fund and Article 16 asks voters to approve $40,000 for the technology equipment reserve fund.
The appropriation request for the technology equipment reserve fund was increased by $10,000 since the last meeting on Dec. 18, following further analysis of the long-term financial needs of the district for technology equipment, according to Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union business manager Sue Wilborn.
One of the biggest changes in the recently revised draft of the budget is in the area of early retirement. The total expenditures for this item increased 267.5 percent from $53,255 last year to $195,709 in this year's budget. The previous draft showed an increase of 151.1 percent from $53.255 to $133,716.
The number of teachers taking early retirement prompted board vice chair Dick Dale of Londonderry to ask if the decisions were the result of the establishment of the Taconic & Green School District.
"I think maybe you expect it [early retirement]" said BRSU Superintendent Jackie Wilson. "I think this year was a little unusual, but maybe one or two a year."
Wilson went on to say, due to the attrition plan adopted by the board, when teachers, faculty, or staff retire or leave of their own volition, the BRSU then examines whether or not it is necessary to replace the position.
Four teachers took early retirement last year, but due to a late notification, only two were included in last year's budget. This year, early retirement for seven teachers has been included in the budget. The budget for library services has decreased by $29,258, 4.6 percent, as a result of a change in staffing.
An increase $54,035, or 20.9 percent, is proposed for health services, from $258,611 last year to $312,646 budgeted for the coming fiscal year. A 0.5 increase to nursing positions across the board for T&G schools is the main factor driving the increase, Wilborn said.
There has also been a significant increase in the shared position line under social and emotional student support due to two new mental health clinicians that are going to be hired at the BRSU. The line item increased from $48,029 last year to $262,233 this year. However, part of those costs are offset by a $63,050 decrease in contracted services. The majority of the costs associated with the positions are regular education costs that will be billed back to Taconic & Green, Wilborn said.
Extracurricular enrichment has increased 14 percent this year, up from $320,605 in last year's budget to $365,553 this year.
"We're putting some more money into the program for field trips and enrichment activities for kids. What we are seeing is that every school provided a different level of enrichment, said Wilborn in a telephone interview. "We're trying to get that to be more equitable from school to school now that we are Taconic & Green. So, we're providing some more financial support to help that happen."
The desire for more equitable educational experiences was one that was expressed by one of the members of the public in attendance as well as Dale.
"Equity has been an ongoing issue that the board has been grappling with. We started talking about that more than a year and a half ago. We even set up a board level equity committee," said Dale. "It is an actual real concern of the board and we really do want to achieve, as rapidly as we can, genuine equality of opportunity to all of our kids in every one of the schools."
There has also been a marginal increase in total paraeducator support of 2 percent overall to $1,460,654, compared to $1,431,579 last year.
Some money has been saved in copiers and services, which has decreased by 31.7 percent from $60,000 last year to $41,000 in this year's budget.
The board also unanimously approved a tuition rate of $15,800 per pupil for the 2020 fiscal year.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.