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Mary Hogan school budget up for a vote on Wednesday

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on April 8 will field a proposed 2009-2010 Mary Hogan Elementary School (ID-4) budget of $5,685,814, representing an increase of about $61,000, or 1.09-percent, over the current year’s spending plan of $5,624,785.

The vote will take place at the ID-4 annual meeting, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the Mary Hogan Elementary School gym.

Mary Hogan Elementary Principal Bonnie Bourne said the budget represents school leaders’ best efforts to craft a spending plan that maintains quality programming while recognizing the current economy. Plus, budgeting was helped out by a change in how transportation costs are accounted for.

“We are very aware of the economic times for folks, while being attentive to the program Middlebury wants for its youngsters,” Bourne said.

The proposed budget maintains the same level of programs and teachers and anticipates an enrollment roughly equal to the 393 students the school currently serves, according to Bourne.

Two major factors have helped school directors hold the budget increase below 2 percent. First, ID-4 administrators project no increase in the district’s health insurance expenses — a big departure from recent years, when annual premium hikes were, at times, in the double-digits.

Second, the district is on the positive end of a major transportation accounting change that is seeing a large portion of busing expenses transferred from the elementary school level to the secondary school level.

The Middlebury Union middle and high school spending plans are having to absorb a combined total of $280,000 in transportation costs previously reflected in the seven Addison Central Supervisory Union elementary schools. Conversely, Mary Hogan Elementary is being relieved of $56,570 in transportation costs this year.

Bourne noted that at a 1.09-percent increase, there are no substantial additions or subtractions to the proposed ID-4 budget, other than the decrease in transportation costs because of the shift in who pays for busing.

Middlebury’s overall K-12 homestead education property tax rate is expected to go up 3.68 percent (from $1.576 per $100 in property value to $1.635) in 2009-2010.

Mary Hogan Elementary School teachers — and indeed teachers throughout the ACSU — are in the final year of their current contract. The district’s transportation contract is also up after this year.

The ID-4 budget warning will also feature an article seeking permission for school directors to tap into the fiscal year 2008 unreserved fund balance (which currently stands at $49,679) to cover an anticipated deficit in this year’s budget. Bourne said the exact size of the deficit is unclear at this point, though some cost overruns are expected in the transportation, special education and personnel categories.

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