Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) taxpayers could be looking at a 2019-20 increase in education costs that ranges from 2.4 to 3.6 percent.
Michelle Baker, director of finance and operations, gave the HUUSD Board an early presentation on the school budget, which showed projected costs for fiscal year 2019-20.
The presentation given by Baker at the HUUSD meeting on November 28 was comprised of charts and graphs of monies and assets in the district. Baker is gearing up for budget season with the board and will be detailing further details at the December 12 meeting as The Valley Reporter goes to press.
Baker explained that this is the first draft of the expenditure budget only, where the team receives revenue information in mid-December. In January, the team expects the information on equalized pupils and from the Legislature about the yield and the tax rate. Baker noted that there is an increase in expenditures by 3.6 percent this year, but there was a $1.6 million fund balance left over from the close of FY18.
“We are recommending that the contribution to the maintenance reserve fund move from $533,000 to $1 million, so that’s quite a big jump, it’s double. So if you take that out of the equation, the maintenance reserve, the expenditures increase for all the other items is 2.4 percent in this first draft,” said Baker.
Baker said the district is top heavy with full-time and support staff. She said that of the $38.5 million, 72 percent of the total cost is staff salary (53.5 percent) and benefits (18.5 percent), which totals roughly $28 million. Another 6.8 percent of the budget is contracted service, totaling almost 80 percent of the budget going to the cost of staff.
Baker noted that drivers in the 2.4 percent increase included the cost of employee health insurance rising in July 2019 by 11.18 percent, the master teacher agreement which calls for teachers’ salaries to rise by 3 percent, and an increase in the district’s transportation contract of 2.8 percent.
STAFF ON THE MOVE?
As numbers of students in schools in the district change, the administrative team suggested the increase and reduction of staff around the district.
Recommendations for the FY2020 staff changes include additions of 1.0 FTE kindergarten teacher at Moretown Elementary for a projection of 27 students; the addition of a 0.7 FTE 5-6 teacher at Crossett Brook is recommended for a projection of eight classrooms with 18 students each; the addition of a 1.0 FTE proficiency-based learning coordinator at HUHS/MS is proposed; as is one 1.0 FTE kindergarten instructional assistant in Waitsfield.
The reduction list includes one 0.5 preschool teacher in Warren, one 0.4 world language teacher at HUHS/MS, the reduction (also due to retirement) of a 1.0 math teacher at HUHS, the reduction of a 0.20 health teacher at CBMS, the reduction of a 0.70 instructional assistant at CBMS (moved to a teaching position), and the reduction of one 0.50 preschool instructional assistant in Warren based on decreased prekindergarten students.
The net recommended staffing changes show an increase of 0.4 full-time employees. The total HUUSD staffing is currently at 371.21.
Baker went over her procedure for the staffing recommendations; she first meets one on one with principals and then meets as an admin team several times. Superintendent Brigid Nease also meets with principals one on one and reviews the number of projected students before coming to a consensus with the team on where the district could use additions or reductions.
Maureen McCracken, Waterbury board representative, asked Superintendent Nease if the students currently enrolled in the early college program impacted the class sizes in the high school and if the administrative team could look forward to see if this year was an anomaly, or if it will be worse next year. Nease said that the team does not know the answer yet but feels confident that the high school will be able to offer the same courses they currently offer.
Baker transitioned to the tech budget for the district, reviewing the student device and staff device ratio. Student devices can be Chromebooks, iPads and laptops. The teaching staff is provided with Chromebooks. Baker reviewed that wireless costs have increased as well as a new phone system upgrade, but noted that consolidation has improved the budget by saving money in the tech portion by buying in bulk with the entire district monies.
“Out of our $38 million budget, $7,302,450 is the piece that is associated with the delivery of special education services. That’s an increase over the current year of 0.45 percent, so we are seeing a decline in the growth of our special education cost, which have increased 17.8 percent over the past five years,” said Baker.
Baker presented a chart that had all the students currently on an Individual Education Plan (IEP); the total number of students with an IEP is 282 out of 1,910, which equals 14.8 percent of students in the district. Nease added that 33 percent of the district is on some type of learning plan whether it is an IEP or 504, Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) plans.
Nease said that she and the admin team met with Ray Daigle, director of facilities, to go over buildings in the district and address the upgrades they need as well as the money to fund it.
Fayston Elementary needs to be pressure-washed and needs a water storage pump, well pump and gym mats. Moretown needs interior painting. Warren Elementary needs fence replacement for their preschool playground. Waitsfield needs a door replacement and to refinish the stage floor. Harwood Union needs electronic access controls for two doors, concrete repairs to sidewalks, stairs, loading docks, interiors painting and camera Network Video Recorder (NVR) updates.
The FY2018 general fund balance surplus of $1.6 million is recommended to go toward the maintenance reserve or to establish a new reserve fund for FY2020 equaling $1,638,088.
The current budget for the food services is $111,100; last year the district contributed $148, 919. “The driver here is that we are declining in enrollment so we are serving less meals. All of our food service staff became unionized when we consolidated, which wasn’t the case before,” said Baker.
Baker said that all the food service workers became eligible for benefits when the district consolidated. The district is, however, still operating under four different food service programs with four directors who each do their own purchasing. Baker added that there is an opportunity to reduce the staff number in directors. In the district there are 394 students who are eligible for free or reduced-cost meals.
This is the first budgeted draft for HUUSD before the school board puts the budget in front of voters in March 2019.