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Mary Hogan budget termed maintenance

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March 26, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents on April 11 will vote on a proposed 2007-2008 Mary Hogan Elementary School spending plan that offers no new programs and reflects an inflationary increase in spending.

ID-4 school directors have OK’d a draft budget of $5,482,885, which represents a 2.73-percent increase compared to this year’s Mary Hogan Elementary spending plan of $5,337,045.

“It’s pretty much a maintenance budget,” said Principal Bonnie Bourne. “There are no new initiatives.”

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.

“We worked hard to keep the increase (in spending) as low as possible,” Bourne said.

The school is again expected to save some money in personnel costs, thanks to the retirement of some veteran teachers. Their replacements will be hired at lower salaries, Bourne noted.

She acknowledged that elementary enrollment numbers have dropped during the past several years. Mary Hogan had an enrollment of 540 students as recently as in the year 2000. The school has pared staff gradually through attrition, but Bourne noted that it’s not always possible to cut teaching positions if enrollment drops by around a dozen students in one year. The loss in students from year to year often spans multiple grades, according to Bourne.

“You never get a number low enough where you can put two classes together and eliminate a teaching position,” Bourne said.

ID-4 officials have been making productive use of vacant space within the Mary Hogan building. The school has been deriving lease revenues from “tenant” programs, such as the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s Early Essential Education (EEE) and Success Center programs. Champlain Valley Head Start will also begin paying rent soon (see related story, Page 3).

The school’s health care costs in 2007-2008 are projected to rise by 8.5 percent. That’s far less than the 15-percent hike the district has seen in recent years, but still a large financial outlay, Bourne noted.

While the budget does not feature new programs, it does provide for an additional bus run. Bourne explained the new run is intended to better synchronize transportation services for 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 on April 11, 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 Mary Hogan Elementary budget will be decided at the ID-4 annual meeting, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at the school. The gathering will feature three other money-related votes, including:

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

• To 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.

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

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