Archive - Dec 4, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Union District-3 school board members are hoping the next two weeks will yield some good financial news that would allow them to keep the middle school’s living arts program from being cut from the proposed 2009-2010 spending plan.
The Middlebury Union Middle School (MUMS) living arts program and its teacher, along with a currently vacant paraprofessional post, are the chief casualties reflected in a proposed UD-3 spending plan of $15,548,526, a draft representing a 3.52-percent increase compared to the current spending plan.
“These are very frustrating times,” UD-3 board Chairman Tom Beyer told a packed crowd of teachers, parents and students at a Tuesday budget meeting that ran six hours.
“There is an enormous uncertainty for everyone,” he said, noting the tough economy. “What we are looking for now is how to share the burden.”
PRESSURE ON BUDGETS
Officials noted the proposed budget increase is actually a lot smaller than 3.52 percent when one realizes that it is artificially inflated by the effect of a state law (Act 130) that requires supervisory unions to more accurately reflect shared expenses between secondary and elementary schools. Currently, transportation expenses within the Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) have been accounted for primarily in the budgets of the seven member elementary schools. The UD-3 budget has merely reflected the costs of busing the students from the elementary schools to MUMS and Middlebury Union High School. The 2009-2010 UD-3 spending plan is therefore being asked to assume a $280,000 increase in transportation budgeting away from the elementary schools. That $280,000 represents a full 1.9 percent of the proposed $15.5 million proposed UD-3 budget, or more than half of the proposed 3.53-percent increase.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College’s student/community activity spot at 51 Main St. may become a casualty of cost cutting moves the institution is having to consider in light of the sagging economy.
The college opened “51 Main At the Bridge” last spring as a downtown venue in which students and area residents could enjoy light food, drink and occasional live entertainment from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Thursday through Saturday. It is located in one of Main Street’s largest and most attractive storefronts in the historic Battell Block, in a spot most recently occupied by the Eat Good Food restaurant.
By most accounts, 51 Main has been a success and a good draw for students seeking a change of scenery from the campus. The student-directed business was established through a gift earmarked for support of “student social life.”
But college officials are now reassessing the future of 51 Main — along with a host of other programs — in light of a plunging stock market that has taken its toll on the institution’s endowment and the ability of its supporters to give donations.
“We are going through a fairly comprehensive process of finding savings at the college,” said Middlebury College Acting Provost Tim Spears.
To that end, all sectors of college administration are working to trim their operating costs (travel, meals, etc.) by 5 percent. Spears added the college’s Budget Oversight Committee — of which he is a member — will be looking at broader cuts that will ultimately require the approval of President Ron Liebowitz.
The college has already instituted a hiring freeze, has limited the work of consultants and contractors, and will cut back on construction projects.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
LINCOLN — Kathleen Kolb has a foot in the past and an eye toward the future — but the Lincoln artist is looking for a few extra pairs of eyes when it comes to envisioning that future.
Kolb was recently named one of 20 finalists for the Art of Action: Shaping Vermont’s Future Through Art project, culled from an initial pool of more than 300 artists.
Of the finalists, 10 will be selected in January as the recipients of commissions that could range from $10,000 to $40,000 per artist. These artists will each produce a suite of work in their chosen medium to address the issues identified by Vermonters as essential to the state’s future, which will eventually be gathered together and exhibited throughout the state.
In creating her final proposal for the Art of Action judges, Kolb is soliciting feedback from county residents about what they cherish about Vermont as a state that we can all carry into the future.
Kolb is the kind of artist who believes, deeply, in art’s ability to make change — and that, in part, is why she’s attracted to the Art of Action project.
“I know that art can inspire people, and I know that it can comfort people, and we need both of those things,” she said. “We’re in a difficult patch. We’re in a time of transition and challenge and opportunity.”
If selected as a finalist, she said that her task will be to think about how to do just that — comfort and inspire. And while painting in a basement studio can be a solitary affair, Kolb is reaching out to her neighbors around the county to figure out just how to achieve that goal.
“I’m wondering what it is that people want and would find useful in that way,” she said.