Opinion: The HUUSD first-year budget

  • Published in MyView

By Heidi Spear

The Harwood Unified Union School District Board has approved a first-year unified district budget for the public to vote on March 7 via Australian ballot. We will be hosting an informational session on the evening of March 6 at 6 p.m. in the Harwood Union High School auditorium to provide more detail on this budget and address your questions. In the meantime, we wanted to provide you with a high-level introduction.

The budget represents an increase in expenditures of 3.2 percent, which includes an allowance for ongoing collective bargaining, establishment of a prudent maintenance reserve for our seven buildings and strategic investments in a new middle school science curriculum and a bus to boost enrollment from neighboring choice districts. This budget, with the tax incentives realized through our unanimous vote to consolidate all Washington West Supervisory Union schools, impacts our estimated equalized homestead tax rates as follows.

Duxbury is expected to be down 5.3 percent, Fayston is expected to be down 6.8 percent, Moretown is expected to be down 8.9 percent. Waitsfield is expected to be down 4.1 percent, Warren is expected to be up 0.7 percent and Waterbury is expected to be down 5.8 percent.

Budget development began this past October with our review of a level service budget that merged our seven existing budgets. The board discussed the desire to tackle discrepancies in opportunity, eliminate waste and enhance our programming. Over three months, the board discovered some significant differences between our schools, our resources and our expectations and the complexities of evaluating equity across our schools. We considered several reductions and increases to the level service budget.

At the conclusion of this process, the HUUSD Board decided that staffing changes required further study and deliberation to avoid undue risk to such priorities as community trust, equity and enrollment. Identification of efficiencies will be a primary focus in the upcoming budget year.

While not directly impacting budgets, the HUUSD Board has also taken two immediate actions to enhance learning, equity of opportunity and flexibility for families. We have asked the administration to develop a plan for foreign language resources to be pooled and leveraged across all elementary schools to maximize language learning and equity and we decided to move forward with school choice in our first year of operation based upon the level of community interest and our capacity to allow for this movement.

We would greatly appreciate your support of our work and the budget we have developed for our first year operating as a unified district. The proposed HUUSD budget is posted on the WWSU website for your review. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any and all HUUSD Board directors with your questions or comments. Further, we encourage your attendance and participation in any of our regularly scheduled meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.

Contact information for all board directors and budget information is posted at www.wwsu.org.

Spear is a member of the HUUSD Board and the HUUSD Communication Working Group.