Members of the executive committee of the Washington West Supervisory Union approved a budget that is up 9.9 percent.
The budget was passed at a January 3 meeting 13 to 4. Adam Greshin and Mary Gow from Warren voted against the budget along with Michael Ketchel and Rob Rosen, also from Warren, and Scott Kingsbury of Waitsfield. The budget does get voted on by individual taxpayers, but each town’s assessment is included as a line item in its school budget.
Before the vote on a motion to pass the budget was taken, Ketchel made a motion to reduce the bottom line from $1,088,289 to $1,020,114 which would have represented a 3 percent increase rather than a 9.9 percent increase.
That motion garnered 5 yes votes, 12 no votes and 1 abstention. Prior to the vote, members of the executive board offered comments on the budget.
“I have a problem with the budget going up 9.9 percent. It is vastly out of line with any school budgets and the state average. It is not out of line with central office increases, however. Since 2000 the central office costs have risen 130 percent while enrollment has gone down 10 percent,” Greshin said.
He said he took issue with the superintendent, Brigid Scheffert, receiving an 8 percent raise and said if she hadn’t gotten a $3,000 bonus this summer, the fund balance that the central office is carrying forward would be 3 percent higher. The school district is carrying forward a $31,434 fund balance that is helping offset increases this year.
“The timing on the board’s generosity towards the superintendent and its staff couldn’t be worse, and we certainly can’t claim poverty in staff negotiations. State employees are in their second year of a five percent wage decrease. I don’t see anything judicious or economic in this budget. You’re asking people of Waterbury who just dug out from the flood to keep digging into their pockets –Moretown too,” Greshin continued.
Kaj Samsom, Moretown, expressed support for the budget and for the staff salary increases.
“What union represents you?” he asked of Washington West Supervisory Union business manager Michelle Baker. “None,” he replied, adding “We can’t compare these increases with negotiated long-term contracts for staff.”
LEVEL OF SERVICE
“I think the level of service we get from the central office is worth the cost,” he added.
Michael Ketchel said he could not face the parents and taxpayers in Warren with support of an almost 10 percent increase in central office costs.
“I’m going to go to my community and tell them that we’re considering having 25 to 30 pupils per classroom next year to keep our budget as close to zero as possible. I can’t justify a 10 percent increase for Washington West, and it’s a 10 percent increase that my voters didn’t get to vote on,” Ketchel said.
Fayston rep Freddie Graves suggested that the problem is not WWSU but rather how Vermont funds education.
“Our problem is Montpelier. We’re making the best that we can out of a bad system,” Graves said.
Dale Smelzter, a Waterbury/Duxbury rep, said that she felt Scheffert’s leadership was to the benefit of the district.
“I would not have believed that our schools could be bringing in level funded budgets without this kind of leadership from Washington West,” she said.
The fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget, which runs from July 2012 through June 2013, is $1,088,290. The budget is up $97,889 from the FY12 budget. In the proposed budget, the general assessment is up 19.7 percent. Business office expenses are up 2.9 percent and fiscal services are up 2.8 percent, while special education services are down 5.8 percent.
WWSU has a new systems administrator position resulting in an increase of $63,043 over the current budget. That position, however, is partially funded through a memorandum of understanding whereby WWSU contributes $20,000 towards the position while Fayston and Harwood each contribute $13,500 and Moretown contributes $10,000.
The budget includes a one-time fee of $10,000 for the supervisory union offices to be moved next June from the current location to the Mad River Park. Other increases include a 9 percent or $8,455 salary increase for Superintendent Brigid Scheffert as well as salary increases for her staff of $21,245 or 2.1 percent. Changes in the cost of health care for district employees will add 1.1 percent or $11,061.
For individual towns, the budget means assessments that range from a reduction of 0.24 percent to an increase of 0.23 percent. Fayston’s FY12 assessment was $58,077 and its FY13 assessment is $56,067, a reduction of $2,010. Moretown’s FY12 assessment was $64,005 and its FY13 assessment is $59,092, a reduction of $4,913. Waitsfield’s FY12 assessment was $76,326 and its FY13 assessment is $75,940 a reduction of $386. Warren’s FY12 assessment was $75,185 and its FY13 assessment is $83,740. The Waterbury-Duxbury Union 45 middle school’s FY12 assessment was $321,645 and its FY13 assessment is $365,801 – an increase of $44,157. Harwood Union High School’s FY12 assessment was $373,714 and its FY13 assessment is $401,696.