DUMMERSTON -- Residents should expect a significant tax hike in fiscal year 2015, school officials say.
Dummerston Town School Board's proposed budget -- subject to approval at Town Meeting -- is up by little more than 1 percent from the current year.
But the school's projected per-pupil spending remains above the state cap, and school board Chairwoman Amy Wall said a variety of factors related to the state's education-funding system will lead to a projected 20-cent jump in local education taxes for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
"Even while holding the overall budgetary increase to 1.13 percent, the combined effects of the base tax rate, the base education payment, the equalized pupil count and the Common Level of Appraisal result in a 20-cent overall increase in the education residential tax rate," Wall wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer.
In devising a fiscal 2015 budget, "the board sought to find that fine balance between maintaining a quality education for our students and remaining fiscally responsible for our community," Wall said.
The result is a proposed spending plan of $3.23 million, an increase of $36,197 from the current year.
In a year-to-year comparison, there are big fluctuations in spending on Dummerston's kindergarten-to-eighth-grade operations (which is down by 10.7 percent) and Dummerston's Windham Southeast Supervisory Union assessment (which is up significantly).
But Wall said that is largely because of a mandated shift of special-education staff and related expenses from the school to the supervisory-union level.
Narrowing focus to the school's general operating fund, where projected fiscal 2015 expenses are up by 3.2 percent, Wall said portions of the school's spending are attributable to "contractual obligations and outside influences."
-- A 4.5 percent estimated increase in health-insurance premiums.
-- A 2 percent increase in salaries for teachers and support staff to fulfill negotiated contracts.
-- A 21.3 percent jump in the school's workers' compensation insurance premium.
-- A 12.7 percent decease in transportation expenses because of a newly negotiated contract.
In contrast, a planned addition to school staff did not affect the school's bottom line, Wall said.
The proposed budget includes a part-time "technology integration specialist" who is expected to work with students and staff to bring more technology into classrooms and the curriculum.
"In ongoing discussions, the school board and administration felt strongly that technology integration was an area of weakness in Dummerston School's programming," Wall said.
"For FY15, the school board challenged administration to find a way to fund such a position with no additional increase in staffing expense," she added. "With hard work and creativity, administration met this challenge successfully."
Dummerston school officials now have some time to explain their budget moves to the public in advance of Town Meeting.
That will include explanation of the expected tax hike. While rates are not yet finalized at the state level, the board's calculations show a projected increase in Dummerston's school-tax rate from $1.1558 to $1.2801.
Combined with an increase in Brattleboro Union High School taxes, Dummerston's total educational rate for residents is expected to climb from $1.6116 to $1.8162.
Town Meeting is scheduled for March 4.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.