Valley News – Oxbow voters to decide school budget
Voters in the Oxbow Unified Union School District towns of Bradford and Newbury, Vermont, will meet Thursday to consider a proposed $17.5 million budget for the coming year.
And in a one-day ballot, they will also decide whether to pass a district bylaws amendment that would spell out how the district could restructure grades between its schools.
Residents have expressed concern that elementary schools in Bradford and Newbury and Oxbow High School could be reorganized without a public vote.
Thursday’s ballot process requires the district to hold at least one public hearing followed by a district vote at which 60% of voters in each city must approve.
“Even if we’re just talking about moving a classroom, it should be a discussion in the community,” Oxbow District Board Chair Danielle Corti said in a phone interview.
Fear of school closures was particularly acute in Newbury, the smaller of the two towns, after the district was created under Bill 46, the state’s school consolidation law.
That fear has subsided, Corti said, but having a process in place will make it clear that the district cannot consolidate schools further without voter approval.
The new article of agreement is the only point subject to the Australian vote. Polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in both cities.
Other items will be discussed at an in-person meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. at Oxbow High School.
At the heart of this meeting is the budget, which is just over $300,000 higher than this year, but will have little impact on taxpayers.
The main driver of the spending hike is a plan to add two new high school counselors. Serving under a pair of co-directors will be a team of social-emotional support staff, Orange Ease Supervisory Union superintendent Emilie Knisley said in a telephone interview.
After two years of “pandemic survival mode,” Knisley said, “there is a need to increase this kind of support for students in schools.”
“We know it’s a need,” Corti said. “How well we can meet that need is going to be an adjustment, and it’s going to be there for years to come.”
More than anything, Corti said, kids just need someone to check in to school. “A lot of it is getting back to routine and knowing that the same people will be there,” she said.
The additional $170,000 cost is offset by a $250,000 drop in direct instruction, which is attributable to teacher turnover, Knisley said.
The Oxbow board, which in addition to the two elementary schools and the high school also oversees the Riverbend Career and Technical Center, decided to dedicate $350,000 of unrestricted funds to paying taxes.
The biggest help in reducing costs has been an increase in state aid. Bursting with federal money, Vermont lawmakers increased the yield from $11,385 to $12,937, which has the effect of providing more funding to public school districts.
As a result, Newbury will see a lower tax rate of more than 8 cents per $100 of assessed value. Bradford’s rate will remain stable, due to a decline in the city’s Common Assessment Level, a mechanism used by the state to equalize property taxes.
In Vermont, most residents pay school taxes on their primary residences based on their income. In the two towns of Oxbow, the projected income rate is 2.62%.
The district’s financial situation and organization are a far cry from where they were in 2020, when it took four attempts to pass a budget, partly because of pandemic uncertainty and partly because of politics. local.
“I think people are excited about the possibilities of this neighborhood,” Knisley said.