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Vt. communities face school budget challenges - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. communities face school budget challenges

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

School may be out across Vermont this week, but the budget teams are in.

"Budget season starts a lot earlier in this office than you might think," said John Stewart, the business manager for the South Burlington School District.

In South Burlington, the budget proposal for FY14 is $42,986,751, up roughly 2 percent from this year. Stewart says one line item is largely to blame.

"The major cost increases are health increases, our health insurance premiums," he said.

South Burlington is planning to eliminate an assistant superintendent and five teachers to make up for a six-figure jump.

"If we had the same amount of people working here last year as next year, it's a $600,000 increase," Stewart said.

Grant Geisler oversees the budgets for the three divisions that make up the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union and is tackling the same health care challenges. In Westford, the proposed budget for next year is $5,038,000, up less than 1 percent from this year's budget of $4,993,000. Health care costs make up $41,000 of the difference.

"Health rates are going up on the order of 11 percent and after salaries that is the largest expense you have in a school budget," Geisler said.

Westford is eliminating one teacher to keep costs down. Geisler says the supervisory union has also found other ways to save.

"We use natural gas at a lot of our schools and natural gas rates have been great," he said. "We changed our insurance provider which allowed us to have some savings."

Now, it's time to take the budgets from binders and handouts to taxpayers with hopes they'll be ready to buy in.

"We've been fortunate for all of the communities to support our budgets," Geisler said. "So, I am optimistic we will have a favorable outcome."

Town Meeting Day is March 5.

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