After five months of ciphering, the Harwood Union School Board is presenting voters with a budget that has been cut by $188,000, or 1.01 percent. 

That budget will be presented to voters in the Washington West Supervisory Union at Harwood's annual meeting on February 26 at 10 a.m. at the Harwood Union library. While the budget will be discussed at that meeting, it will be voted on by Australian ballot at Town Meeting on March 1.

Harwood Union High School serves Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown, Duxbury and Waterbury. Harwood Union Middle School serves Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown.

The budget reflects declining enrollment at the local high school as well as the school board's commitment to comply with the Vermont Department of Education's Challenge for Change. That challenge spelled out targeted reductions in spending at schools across the state.

To achieve the $188,000 reduction in the proposed 2011/2012 budget of $12,005,768, the board is proposing a budget that cuts an English language learner position by .67 FTE (full time equivalent), reduces by .50 FTE a technical educator position and reduces by .20 FTE a music position.

"There are also reductions in school supplies and special education tuition expenses. Staff reductions have been made based on historical class enrollment numbers as reviewed under the school board policy of low enrolled courses. The board entertained one early retirement proposal to reach the Challenge for Change goal," explained school Principal Duane Pierson.

This year's proposed budget reflects a projected enrollment next year of 766 students, down from 780 students this year and down from Harwood's recent peak enrollment of 862 in 2004/2005.

Voters in the Washington West Supervisory Union will also be asked to approve an article calling for $50,000 to replace the water storage tanks for Harwood Union's water supply. The original tanks from when the school was built in 1966 are rusted through and must be replaced or the state will close the school, explained school board member Freddie Graves, Fayston.

The cost of replacing the cisterns is being presented as a special article to allow the school to take advantage of a one-time state debt forgiveness of $25,000 if voters approve a bond for the water tank project - leaving the net cost to taxpayers at $25,000. If the $50,000 for the water tanks were included in the regular budget, there would be no forgiveness and the cost of the project would be $50,000.