By Rachel Goff

After working through four drafts, last week the Harwood Union School Board approved a budget of $13,547,626 for FY2015, representing a 4.1 percent increase over last year.

"We've worked very hard to cut where we can," Waterbury representative to the school board David Goodman said of what he feels is a "responsible" final number, which the board unanimously approved on Wednesday, January 22.

As it stands, the FY2015 budget accounts for "a number of retirements," Waitsfield representative Stephen Sands said. Of the four teachers and one technology educator retiring, two previously full-time positions are being reduced to half-time positions, and one is being reduced to a .83-time position. The school also will cut back on one full-time technology coordinator and one .75-time custodian.

Alongside minor cutbacks in educators' hours, however, Harwood's FY2015 budget includes funding for professional development and other teacher training, to ensure "we're not shortchanging our future," Waterbury representative Dale Smeltzer said.

Not included in next year's budget is the cost of connecting two new wells to Harwood's water supply.

On Town Meeting Day in March, voters will be asked to approve via Australian ballot an article authorizing school building water supply improvements in an amount not to exceed $425,000, subject to reduction from available grants-in-aid, loan forgiveness and other financial assistance, to be financed over a term not to exceed 20 years.

Currently, Harwood's water supply is not large enough to meet the school's needs. To make up for the shortage, Harwood has been paying upwards of $10,000 per semester to haul water to the building from other sources.

Technically, hauling water is only supposed to be a temporary solution to a supply problem, but the state has allowed Harwood some leniency to continue hauling water until it finds a suitable solution. If the water supply improvements article is not approved by the public in March, however, Harwood will have to find the money to connect the wells from somewhere else.