On February 27, 2019

School budget up slightly, some rates down

By Katy Savage

Despite consolidating schools and restructuring staff to find savings, the Windsor Central Supervisory Union budget is up slightly.

The $18 million budget, to be presented to voters on Town Meeting Day,  is up about .73 percent from the previous year, though the individual tax rates will vary between each town.

Some towns are expected to see a tax rate increase while others will see a decrease, based on the common level of appraisal.

Killington’s tax rate is expected to jump 1.84 percent to $1.63 per $100 of assessed property value, while Bridgewater’s tax rate is expected to be up 0.16 percent to $1.77.

Reading’s tax rate is expected to drop 4 percent to $1.58, while Plymouth’s tax rate is down 11 percent to $1.60, Woodstock’s is down 2.26 percent to $1.66 and Pomfret’s is down 0.16 percent to $1.67.

The actual tax rates will be set after state  legislators vote on a budget.

The budget includes major configuration changes, with more towns sending students to Woodstock Elementary than ever before.

Pomfret, and Bridgewater students will continue to attend Woodstock Elementary School next year since a water issue was discovered at the Pomfret Valley School earlier this year.

Jennifer Iannantuoni said in a recent informational meeting that an assessment of the 25-year-old Prosper Valley School building was still being conducted. One estimate found it will cost nearly half-million to repair the building. Iannantuoni said a building configuration committee was looking into what would be done with the school and if it should be saved.

“We have to figure out what our needs are first,” Iannantuoni said.”We need to do our due diligence. It’s a work in progress.”

Reading students in grades 4-6  will also attend Woodstock Elementary for the first time next year. As a result, two teaching positions are one 1.6 administrative positions will be cut from the  Reading school, saving the district about $150,000 next year.

The consolidation will put about 262 students in Woodstock Elementary School, up from 205 this year. While the building is large enough to accommodate the extra students, there are concerns about traffic congestion during morning drop off and pick up.

“I don’t know how we’re going to address that, quite frankly,” said Paige Hiller school board chair.

The budget standardizes specials, such as music, physical education and media technology for elementary students, giving them all the same offerings. Spanish will also be offered three times a week for all students in grades 4-6. Free full-time pre-K will also be offered for all children next year (with pre-K programs located in Killington, Woodstock and Reading), costing about $50,000.

If approved, the budget will result in education spending of $17,994 per equalized pupil—about 3 percent higher than spending for the current year.

Part of the overall budget increase is stemming from $755,000 in uncontrollable costs associated with an 11.8 percent increase in health insurance costs and costs involved in creating the unified district budget.

Also included in the budget is a $150,000 cost for deferred maintenance.

Despite the slight increases, Hiller said she was “encouraged” by the progress being made within the school.

Voters will decide on the budget by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 5 at their local polling places.

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