Budgets for school districts and TRSU will need explanation

REGION – The school budgets for Green Mountain Unified School District, Ludlow-Mount Holly Union Unified School District, and Two Rivers Supervisory Union have all been approved with increases that will necessitate detailed explanation for voters, according to GMUSD board members.

The largest increase is found in the GMUSD budget, which was approved Thursday, Jan. 16 with a total budget of $14,108,968, an increase of 9.06%. The increase is $1,171,000, but the board wants taxpayers to know that $573,000 of that increase is for expenses that are mandated, either because of insurance increases or special educational expenses that are non-negotiable.

In prior meetings, the board had considered further cuts but fought to keep student opportunities include STEAM and social studies positions in the budget.

This revised number is slightly down from the last round, impacted by the removal of the world language position and by reducing the anticipated tuition students by eight. The total number of anticipated tuition students reflected in the budget currently stands at 59, but there is an expectation that there may be more once the fate of the Black River Independent School is known.

Despite a plea from Board Member Doug McBride, the world language position was not added back into the GMUSD budget.

In a meeting just prior, the TRSU met and approved their budget for $6,789,888, a 7.58% increase over last year. This budget was slightly up from the prior TRSU budget meeting with the addition of LMUUSD transportation, which involved paying a driver and leasing a bus from town of Ludlow; an increase in the expected new superintendent position for $140,000; a full-time administrative assistant and 0.8 technology director position.

A few days prior, Jan. 15, LMUUSD approved their budget for 7,288,496. Their overall budget is down approximately 1.20%, a small savings despite the closure of Black River Middle School High School.

McBride noted that the LMUUSD budget was just 28 cents away from the penalty threshold and felt that the only way for that district to avoid penalties next year would be to reduce their budget.

According to Superintendent Meg Powden, the LMUUSD board asked the administration to cut $468,000, and they will have to continue to address that going forward.

Board Member Kate Lamphere expressed her concern that GMUSD was spending to improve student opportunities, but the LMUUSD board doesn’t have that option, which may cause issues with educational equality.

With the increased budget numbers in, the GMUSD board asked for, and TRSU administrators agreed to provide, a bulleted list of reasons for the increases to the budget, including increased expenses such as soaring insurance costs and mandated special education spending. It will also outline increased student opportunities like STEAM and others, which is of particular importance in order to attract nearby tuition students. This will give board members and administrators talking points when discussing the budget increases with voters.

Powden also said that Patrick Cody of Okemo Valley TV would record dialogue about the budgets to air on that channel.

Board Chairman Joe Fromberger said that presenting a united message was important and that the board should go out and say, “This is the right thing to do for the future of our district…and helps us attract tuition students that are out there and very close by.”

The informational meeting on GMUSD budget is Thursday, Feb 27 at GMUHS auditorium.

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