The Harwood Union middle and high school board has adopted a budget of $14,219,230 for the 2016-2017 year, which reflects a decrease in expenditures of 0.2 percent and overall savings of $35,602 from last year.
“We spent a lot of time going through the budget line by line,” said Harwood co-principal Lisa Atwood at the board’s January 20 meeting, “with great scrutiny.”
Education spending per pupil is up 2.1 percent from last year, at $17,064 – the second highest equalized per pupil cost among Valley schools, after Moretown Elementary.
Decreases are seen in categories of regular education (12.6 percent), health education programming (47.7 percent) and board of education spending (18.4 percent). Board chair Deborah Hunter said that further cuts would hinder academic programming.
Increases are found within English education (12.2 percent), technology education (10.2 percent), science education (10.1 percent), and Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) general assessment (16.9 percent).
WWSU director of finance and operations Michelle Baker spoke to a few specific changes, such as a $9,970 reduction in math books due to a grant the school received for the purchase, as well as a $15,000 technology purchase for the school’s STEM program because it was budgeted in two separate categories.
While Harwood does not have its own tax rate, Baker said that regardless of what local elementary school budgets currently reflect, the Harwood portion of the tax rate contains a reduction of 0.2 percent.
When local school budgets and Harwood’s proposed budget are combined, homestead property tax rates across the district were reduced, except for Warren and Waitsfield. Warren taxpayers will see a 2.1 percent increase and in Waitsfield, which Baker called “the outlier in this story,” taxpayers will see a 4.3 percent increase.
Although these declines are seen across the state, Baker said, “We’re not used to seeing these results.” She added, “It does make you wonder what we’re up against next year.”
All of these figures are, Baker said, subject to the Legislature, which had proposed up to six changes in relation to the homestead tax rate calculation last week. Regardless of which changes are adopted in the near future, WWSU superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease said regarding Harwood’s 2016-2017 budget, “It can only get more favorable.”