Voters approve River Valleys budget

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DOVER — In a 34-14 vote, the River Valleys Unified School District's $5,680,223 budget for fiscal year 2021 was approved.

About 60 people from Dover and Wardsboro attended the annual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Dover Town Hall, according to a news release from the district.

"This is democracy," Dr. Robert Backus, district moderator, told voters before the articles were presented. "This is the real deal."

This marks the second River Valleys budget, which funds operations for the elementary schools in both towns. It represents a $334,092 or 6.25 percent jump over last year. Increases include $15,500 in building operations, $20,689 for salaries, $55,876 for health benefits, $102,707 for changes in assessments, and $139,320 for pre-K and secondary tuition payments.

Voters authorized the board to use up to $200,000 if needed from a reserve fund to offset increases in the homestead tax rate. The board also received approval to establish a general reserve fund, a special reserve fund for school-specific contributions, and capital improvement funds for buildings and one for vehicles.

The annual tuition rate to state-approved independent schools for students after elementary school was set at $17,990, which is the rate for Burr & Burton Academy in Manchester. Rich Werner, school board chairman, said both communities used the Burr & Burton rate before the two school districts merged.

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Next year, the annual district meeting will be held the first Tuesday in April. In later years, the meeting will be held the last Tuesday in March.

The board had proposed moving the annual meeting to the second Tuesday in April, a time when more is known about school tax rates as determinations made by the Legislature and governor finalize those figures. Board members also had concerns about weather in March after turnout at last year's meeting had been affected by a big snowstorm.

Voters worried attendance in April could be reduced by athletic competitions and school vacations. The decision to amend the date also had to do with avoiding scheduling conflicts with Passover celebrations. Next year, the holiday goes from March 27 to April 4.

Voters reelected Backus as moderator, Marco Tallini as treasurer and Andy McLean as clerk. Their terms run through June 30, 2021, according to the news release.

Annual school board member stipends were approved at $2,000 and $2,500 for the chairman or chairwoman. Mileage reimbursement for their travels was approved at the federal rate, which is currently 57.5 cents per mile, according to the news release.

A video of the meeting can be found at brattleborotv.org.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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