Archive - Dec 18, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MONTPELIER — The Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) will need to trim its budget by around $500,000 before the end of June as a result of fiscal year 2009 state budget rescissions, including a new round amounting to $19.7 million announced by the administration of Gov. James Douglas on Monday.
State officials warned that additional, deeper cuts are undoubtedly on the horizon for this fiscal year and next.
Locally, the latest cuts will not only hit CSAC but will also mean closure of the Addison County Probation and Parole field office and elimination of state funding for the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, though that organization is expected to weather the storm thanks to a $1 million gift it received earlier this year.
State lawmakers were still sorting out the impact of the latest batch of cuts as the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday. Casualties included:
• 50 state government positions statewide (15 of which are currently vacant). Affected agencies include Natural Resources, Buildings and General Services, Secretary of State’s office, Agriculture, Corrections, Governor’s office, Treasurer’s office and Veterans’ Affairs.
• Pay cuts of 5 percent for non-union state workers now earning more than $60,000 per year.
• A $766,000 reduction for the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., in second-semester college tuition grants.
• A 4-percent cut for the state’s mental health agencies, including CSAC. Elimination of chiropractic service coverage for Medicaid recipients.
• Elimination of cervical cancer vaccines for adult women.
• Closure of state roadside rest areas (none in Addison County).
The rescissions also mean Vermonters and visitors will be seeing some higher fees for services, such as admission to state parks.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Voters in the seven towns that make up the Addison Central Supervisory Union school district on March 3 will cast ballots on a proposed UD-3 spending plan of $15,530,470 for the 2009-2010 academic year. The budge, which eliminates Middlebury Union Middle School’s (MUMS) living arts program, represents a 3.4 percent increase in spending over the current year.
The living arts program and its teacher ultimately became the casualties of Act 82, a new state law that requires school districts to hold two votes on their budgets if they exceed a state-prescribed inflationary threshold. The living arts program costs $88,000, an amount school administrators reluctantly recommended for paring in order to ensure the UD-3 budget would not trigger a second vote under Act 82.
“When we’re looking at the budget constraints we were facing this year, there was no way we could find those savings looking for $1,000 here or $1,000 there,” MUMS Principal Inga Duktig said. “It wasn’t an easy decision at all.”
A decision rendered even more difficult by another state law — Act 130, which requires that shared expenses be budgeted based on actual spending at elementary and secondary schools. That means UD-3 administrators have to reflect, in the 2009-2010 budget, around $280,000 in transportation costs that had previously been reflected in the supervisory union’s elementary school budgets. That accounting change is responsible for more than half of the 3.4 percent increase in the proposed UD-3 spending plan.
“It’s been a challenging budget for us,” ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease told the UD-3 board at a Tuesday evening meeting.
He added the 2009-2010 budget picture is likely not to get brighter in the near future. That’s because there is no more fund balance to apply to what is already a very conservative spending plan, according to Sease.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
ADDISON COUNTY — After 30 years in the construction industry, Salisbury resident Jack Sheehan has seen economic ups and downs before — but never before has he seen business slow like it has this winter.
“Usually I’m about a year to a year and a half ahead,” he said, when it comes to plotting out his work schedule. “This year I have about half a year’s worth of work that I know of.”
And Sheehan, who runs a relatively small business with a crew of three other employees, is one of the lucky ones. He hasn’t had to lay off employees yet, and so far, he said, the spring looks promising.
Other local builders haven’t been so lucky, as construction around the region slows in the face of the national and statewide economic recession.
Work is tight in industries around the state. Unemployment in Vermont climbed to 5.2 percent of the workforce in October, up from 3.9 percent a year ago. (Statewide unemployment is still significantly lower than national unemployment, which at last count was a seasonally adjusted 6.7 percent.)
But with credit tight, and homeowners and business owners reluctant — or unable — to build, work is growing especially scarce for workers in the construction industry, which last year employed 5.5 percent of Vermont workers.
Slow business has forced some layoffs at businesses like Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Corp. and Apple Hill Design-Build.
Jim Pulver, the vice president of architecture at Bread Loaf, acknowledged that his company has had to downsize its workforce recently — though he wouldn’t say by how much.
The company, which specializes in industrial and commercial projects, is seeing fewer projects to bid on, Pulver said, as well as tighter budgets on projects that are moving forward.