Rivendell School District Budget Proposal Has 1 Percent Increase

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Rivendell Interstate School District annual meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Rivendell Academy in Orford. Voting for the district’s elected positions will begin at 6 p.m. on March 20 at the academy.

Orford — Rivendell Interstate School District officials have proposed a 1 percent increase to bring the district’s operating budget to $10.6 million, with the bulk of the increase targeted for mental health support for students.

Superintendent Elaine Arbour said she had initially proposed a near even budget, but School Board members wanted to spend $100,000 to boost mental health support, a subject the district highlighted in a January assembly focused on eliminating the stigma often associated with mental illness.

Though the money is included the proposed budget, it’s not yet clear what those supports will look like, she said.

“We really want to be thoughtful before we just start hiring people,” she said.

Other budget increases in the proposal include salaries and benefits in two newly negotiated contracts, and some increase in special education, she said.

The budget also includes a $130,000 reduction in debt service, resulting from having paid off a bond for asbestos removal. Other savings include a reduction in vocational education and in the library.

The reduction in library costs is a result of shifting the responsibility of maintaining the collection at Rivendell Academy to the elementary school librarian, Arbour said. In place of a librarian at the high school level, the district is looking to hire a “digital culture leader,” she said. The new hire will be responsible for helping teachers and students with project-based learning, mathematical modeling, web design and developing electronic portfolios, according to the job description posted on Rivendell’s website.

“Libraries — particularly at the high school level — are used differently than they used to be,” Arbour said.

In addition to the budget, voters will also be asked to approve spending $70,000 to replenish the district’s capital reserve fund. The fund, which is used to maintain the district’s facilities, has been depleted by years of roof repairs and improvements to better accommodate people with disabilities, Arbour said.

“Over the years the balance has gone down,” she said.

If all spending articles are approved, Orford residents would have an estimated school tax rate of $20.48 per $1,000 of valuation, or $5,120 on a $250,000 home.

Fairlee residents would pay an estimated tax rate of $1.74 per $100 of a home’s valuation; West Fairlee’s would be set at $1.97; and Vershire’s would be $1.88.

If the budget is approved, owners of a property valued at $250,000 in Fairlee who are not eligible for Vermont’s income sensitivity program would expect to pay $4,346 in property taxes to the district. Owners of a home of the same value in West Fairlee would expect to pay $4,926; and in Vershire, the bill would be $4,694.

There are no contested races for the Rivendell School Board.

Valley News Staff Writer Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.