BY JENNIFER TRAVERS AND INDIGO GLAZA | COMMUNITY NEWS SERVICE | FEBRUARY 27, 2020
On Town Meeting Day, March 3, voters in the five communities of the Champlain Valley School District will consider a budget of $82.4 million and a $6 million school construction bond.
The proposed budget of $82,398,769 for the 2020-2021 school year represents a 4.4% increase in spending.
According to district budget materials, one of the district’s largest cost increases is health insurance coverage, up 13.2% from the current year. Funding for special education also will see an increase of $885,514 while increases for early literacy programs, STEM, and social-emotional support total $247,000.
In addition to the budget, voters will also be asked to approve a $6 million construction bond that will pay for projects at five schools and address stormwater management in multiple locations.
Most of the bond — $4.5 million — will be spent at Charlotte Central School for construction and renovations. The school building has sections dating back to 1939 and had its last renovation in 2011, according to school officials. A key goal will be to improve the building’s insulation.
Hinesburg Community School is slated for $395,000 of improvements from the bond. Projects there include attention to the parking lot and structural work on the second floor of the main building.
Another $545,000 would be spent at Champlain Valley Union High School where one project is to address drainage repairs, and $380,000 is earmarked for work at Shelburne Community School including upgrades to the fire alarm system.
District’s First Electric School Buses
Also on the March 3 ballot is a question for voters to approve spending $266,000 for three new school buses, two of which would be the district’s first electric-powered buses — and some of the first of their kind in the state.
The district said it aims to replace three or four of its 62 buses each year.
The electric buses will be purchased with a combination of district funds and a grant award through the Vermont Electric Bus Pilot Program which aims to improve and update the technology of school districts and transit agencies.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources recently chose CVU for the program along with Barre Unified Union School District, Franklin West Supervisory Union and Marble Valley Regional Transit District. CVU student and Environmental Action Club member Ethan Lisle was involved with the district pursuing the grant funding through this project, according to the grant announcement.
The school district will pay part of the cost of the new buses — about $100,000 each — with the grant covering the remainder. Electric buses usually cost upwards of $325,000. The grant money comes from the state’s legal settlement with Volkswagen after some of the company’s diesel vehicles violated the Clean Air Act.
Another ballot question asks voters to approve allocating a $725,000 fund balance or operating surplus from toward this year’s budget to offset property taxes. A remaining $1,750,407 would be held to be used in future budget years.
The school tax rate increases by town will vary from a 4.5% increase in Charlotte and Hinesburg to an 8.6% increase in St. George, according to district budget materials. Hinesburg taxpayers can expect an increase in their tax bill of $65.73 for every $100,000 of property value.
Voting on the school ballot items will be done on Tuesday, March 3, in each of the district’s five communities — Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the respective polling places. In Hinesburg, that will be at Town Hall.
On March 2, school district officials will hold the annual school meeting at CVU High School room 160 starting at 5 p.m. That gathering is mainly an informational session regarding the proposed budget and other spending articles on the ballot the following day.
Voters also may cast ballots before March 3 at their town clerks’ offices. Early ballots are available by request via phone from town clerks or online at sos.vermont.gov/elections/voters/ early-absentee-voting.
More details about the school budget and other ballot items is available on the school district’s website.
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.