Bennington school board concerned about potential tax hike

This article by Derek Carson originally appeared Dec. 12 in the Bennington Banner.

BENNINGTON — The Bennington School District board was faced with a case of severe sticker-shock on Monday, as their first draft budget showed a large projected tax rate increase despite a more modest increase in spending.

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union business manager Renee Gordon said that, based on early estimates of the school district’s FY19 budget, the district could see a tax increase of 10.39 cents, or a 6.9 percent increase. Those budget numbers, which the board will look to reduce in the coming weeks, represent an increase of $678,990, or 5.1 percent. However, Gordon warned that even if the budget is level-funded to this year’s level, the state’s $50 million education budget shortfall would still see taxes increased by about 7 cents.

“We can’t go with this budget,” said board member George Sleeman. “We have a serious problem. Very serious.” The board asked principals to come back to the next budget meeting prepared to discuss specific line items that could be cut, and what effect those cuts would have on students. That budget meeting will be held prior to the board’s regular January meeting,

The board also asked that Special Education Director Wendy Pierce be present at that meeting to discuss special education spending.

Level-funding the budget would be easier said than done. Staff contracts, which were negotiated through collective bargaining in the spring, will increase about 3 percent on average. Bennington will also begin paying off its $4.5 million energy project bond this year, which resulted in the budget’s debt service line increasing $321,670 over last year, which accounts for a large part of the total increase.

Read full article at the Bennington Banner.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union