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Mary Hogan budget to face vote

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April 9, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters weighing in on the proposed 2007-2008 ID-4 school budget on Wednesday, April 11, will also be asked if they want to affirm their current practice of electing their moderator, clerk, treasurer and an auditor from the floor, as opposed to by Australian ballot.

The special vote, set for 7 p.m. at Mary Hogan Elementary School, comes in the wake of some recent research by Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease into the ID-4 charter. He discovered that the charter — which dates back to 1866 — stipulates that district officers must be elected by Australian ballot. But the district had unwittingly been selecting its officers in the same manner as most other districts — from the floor of the annual meeting, a process endorsed by state law.

Trouble is, school charters are supposed to trump state law when it comes to procedural matters.

School districts, however, may choose to follow state statutes “in lieu of any inconsistent provisions of special legislation relating to such district.”

ID-4 officials are hoping district voters take just such an action at their annual gathering on April 11, to allow Mary Hogan to continue to elect its officers from the floor.

After dispensing with that question, residents will move to the main item on the meeting agenda — namely, the vote on a proposed 2007-2008 Mary Hogan Elementary School spending plan of $5,482,885, which represents a 2.73-percent increase compared to this year’s budget of $5,337,045.

The budget does not reflect any new programs.

It’s a spending plan that reflects roughly the same number of staff (around 65) delivering services to what officials believe will be a level — or slightly higher — number of students next year. Mary Hogan currently serves 389 children in grades kindergarten through 6.

The school’s health care costs in 2007-2008 are projected to rise by 8.5 percent.

While the budget does not feature new programs, it does provide for an additional bus run, intended to better synchronize transportation services for older Middlebury students, some of whom have had to be dropped off at the local high school and middle school around an hour before classes begin, then picked up around an hour after classes end.

If approved, the ID-4 budget, combined with the already approved Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury Union Middle School spending plans, would result in a total of $11,552,295 in K-12 education spending for Middlebury taxpayers. That would mean an equalized homestead tax rate of $1.504 per $100 in property value — a 2-percent increase compared to the current rate of $1.474.

The April 11 gathering will feature three other money-related votes, including proposals to:

• Tap the school’s unreserved fund balance for $72,072 to help pay for a roof replacement project at the school.

• Use $55,066 from the fund reserve balance to pay off a seven-year loan for a school bus purchased back in August of 2005.

• Take $24,743 from the unreserved fund balance and put it in ID-4’s “Education Reserve Fund.”

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