Kianelisa Pena, an 11th-grader at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend, acts out an improvised scene about ants during a 10-week Project Based Learning curriculum at the school on Dec. 7, 2022.

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TOWNSHEND — Next week, the West River Education District will vote on a $13,543,610 budget proposed for fiscal year 2024.

Laurie Garland, director of finance at Windham Central Supervisory Union, said the spending plan reflects a 4.87 percent increase over last year. All articles will be decided by ballot beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Brookline, 10 a.m. in Jamaica, 9 a.m. in Newfane, 9 a.m. in Townshend and 10 a.m. in Windham. Polls will close at 7 p.m.

Driving the increase are “investments in student needs and opportunities, inflationary factors, as well as the normal salary/benefit increases,” Garland said. Health care costs are up about 12 percent.

Investment highlights include programming at the Vermont EMS Academy, project-based learning and Journey Away at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School. About 67 percent of the budget is geared toward direct instruction and student-support services, according to a budget presentation.

Voters also will consider moving $100,000 from reserves to the Capital Fund for building improvements. Garland said the move will not affect the FY24 tax rate because the money is coming from reserves.

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Garland noted the unified tax rate for the district represents a year-over-year decrease of .06 cents or — 3.68 percent due to a 16.3 percent increase in the yield, a factor determined at the state level. However, drops in the common level of appraisal (CLA), which the state determines using real estate sales in communities to ensure fairness in education funding, caused increases in school tax rates to range from 4.16 percent in Newfane to 12.84 percent in Windham.

“What this means is if all the town CLAs were at 100 percent, all the districts would have a decrease in their tax rates from the previous year,” Garland said.

Three vie for West River Education District Board seat

Barbara Guerrero of Townshend, Ken McFadden of Newfane and Kate Gehring of Newfane are running for one at-large seat on the School Board for a term of three years.