With less than a week until its self-imposed deadline to finalize a budget proposal for the 2020-21 school year, the Harwood Union school board is looking at no fewer than six budget scenarios, including two in which all seventh- and eighth-graders would attend Crossett Brook Middle School this fall.
As this paper went to press Wednesday night, the board was reviewing numerous scenarios that range from adding 6 cents to the equalized tax rate for the six towns within the district to reducing the tax rate by 1 cent.
While the warning for the budget must be posted no later than Sunday, Feb. 2, board members have set a deadline to complete the proposed budget by Wednesday, Jan. 22, giving it two meetings — last night and this coming Wednesday — to make crucial decisions.
The board’s six possible scenarios:
• Budget 1 totals $40,472,342, up 4.8 percent, with a 4.5 percent increase in equalized per-pupil spending; it would increase the equalized tax rate by 6 cents per $100 of property value — $120 on a $200,000 house.
• Budget 2 cuts $950,000 from Budget 1, limits intradistrict choice for incoming seventh- and eighth-graders, moves Moretown’s fifth- and sixth-graders to Crossett Brook next school year, reduces elementary music offerings and eliminates foreign language for K-4 students. The $39,720,778 budget would result in a 2.1 percent increase in expenditures, a 2.1 percent increase in equalized per-pupil spending and a 2-cent increase in the equalized tax rate.
• Budget 3 reduces Budget 1 by at least $300,000; it limits intradistrict choice for incoming seventh- and eighth-graders and prohibits cuts in existing programs. This budget of $40,317,342 would raise expenditures by 4.4 percent and equalized per-pupil spending by 4 percent, and adds 5 cents to the equalized tax rate.
• Budget 4, like Budget 3, reduces Budget 1 by $300,000; this proposal would add staff to Crossett Brook to allow the district to approve most intradistrict choice applications for incoming seventh- and eighth-graders. It also prohibits cuts in existing programs. The budget implications are the same as for Budget 3.
• Budget 5 is based on moving all seventh- and eighth- graders to Crossett Brook this fall. This budget of $39,427,342 would raise expenditures by 2.1 percent and equalized per-pupil spending by 1.1 percent, and would add 1 cent to the equalized tax rate.
• Budget 6 would move all seventh- and eighth-graders to Crossett Brook this fall, and eliminate most budget additions proposed by school administrators. This budget of $39,194,842 would increase expenditures by 1.5 percent and equalized per-pupil spending by 0.4 percent, and reduce the equalized tax rate by 1 cent.
Middle school and petitions
For more than a year, the Harwood board has wrestled with whether it is in students’ best interest to relocate seventh- and eighth-graders from Harwood Middle School to Crossett Brook.
In February, the board rejected a motion to make the move this coming fall. However, in November, the board adopted a long-term plan that involves moving the Harwood middle school students at some point in the future, and closing Fayston Elementary.
In the meantime, a group called the Vermont Coalition for Community Schools is circulating petitions to change the district’s articles of agreement so that the Fayston and Harwood moves would require voter approval.
The petition needs 562 signatures — 5 percent of the 11,233 voters in the six-town district — to put the issue before voters. As this story goes to press, the board has not received any petitions, which can be found online at bit.ly/harwoodpetition.
Speaking of petitions
This year, four board members are up for re-election, and three have indicated they will not run again — Gabriel Gilman of Moretown, Garett MacCurtain of Duxbury and Maureen McCracken of Waterbury.
The fourth — Christine Sullivan of Waitsfield — has filed a re-election petition.
For residents in Duxbury, Moretown and Waterbury who wish to run for the board, the deadline to file a petition with their respective town clerks is Monday, Jan. 27.