WHITINGHAM -- Due to consolidation efforts, Twin Valley School Board Chairman Seth Boyd says drafting the budget was challenging.
"It took seven drafts to get to where we're at," he said. "We're looking for your support."
On Feb. 27, the board and several administrators went through the budget that will be proposed at Town Meeting in Wilmington and Whitingham.
Voters are being asked to adopt a budget of $9,863,472 in each town for operations of the elementary, middle and high schools that house Twin Valley students. The expenditure would also cover special education costs.
The increase in tax rate for Wilmington is about 9 cents while Whitingham is about 11 cents.
Although an increase was predicted for the second year of the bond secured for the consolidation, the board had not anticipated needing a resource officer. Article 3 asks voters to authorize the Twin Valley School District to hire a school resource officer for added security at the new Twin Valley Middle and High School at the cost of $41,100 per year.
For that officer, the district has anticipated a grant that would require it to only pay for one out of three years. A police department would then pick up the tab for the remaining amount. The officer could be from the Wilmington Police Department, Windham County Sheriff's Department or Vermont State Police.
Students from both towns began their school year at the Twin Valley Elementary School, at the site of the former Deerfield Valley Elementary School. Construction continues at the Twin Valley Middle and High School at Whitingham, which is scheduled to be completed by next school year.
"From our prediction standpoint, we feel we're pretty close to where we were going to be on consolidation savings," said Boyd.
Staff was reduced by 12.5 positions. Both assistant principal positions were eliminated. Essentially, five administrators were decreased to three.
"We're still negotiating going to a more traditional model, where you have a principal and vice principal within (the Middle and High School) building and then one at the Elementary School building," said Boyd. "That's how we built the budget, based on that thought."
A resident mentioned principals' large salaries, which board members believe to be an essential part of the formula for success.
"I like to think we paid a performance incentive and we're paid back in the end result three-fold by it," said Whitingham School Board Chairman Dwight Williams.
Wilmington School Board Chairman Phil Taylor stated it was an important position in the school.
"There's not a lot of people who can do that job well," he continued. "It's the one position you really want to have a good person in there. I think the issue is you need to retain them. Good principals can go elsewhere."
Taylor mentioned other key expenses, which included curriculum development, moving expenses and unaccounted costs that were not budgeted. After Town Meeting, the reworking of the curriculum will be addressed at public meetings.
Maintaining the high school building in Wilmington is included in the proposed budget. Until it is re-purposed, taxpayers will have to fund it. But a feasibility study is currently in progress, which was funded by a grant.
There was not enough time to complete the study before the budget was drafted. Informational meetings regarding the building are planned for March 1.
"Everything is kind of closed down and operating on minimum heat, revised electric and heating," said Taylor. "We're hoping this is a one-year cost right now."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.