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Rivendell School Budget Up 1.7%

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

Orford — Voters in the Rivendell Interstate School District’s will decide on a proposed $9.8 million budget, an increase of 1.7 percent over the current school year.

School officials attributed the increase primarily to new contracts for teachers, support staff and some administrators. Health and dental insurance costs are also on the rise.

In addition to the budget, voters will also be asked to approve $50,000 for a future capital needs reserve fund on Tuesday. The fund’s current balance is $126,586, according to a flyer distributed by the board.

“The budget being presented for FY15 is both adequate to continue delivering a quality education to our students and responsible to the taxpayers,” Rivendell School Board Chairman Marc DeBois wrote in the district’s annual report.

DeBois, an Orford resident, said he did not give interviews and referred a reporter to Rivendell Superintendent Brenda Needham.

Needham said the capital needs reserve fund is intended to act as a safety net in an emergency, such as a broken boiler or a leaky roof.

The budget is shared by the four participating communities, Fairlee, Orford, Vershire and West Fairlee, based on the number of students they send to the district.

School costs are up, albeit slightly, while enrollment in the district, which has decreased in recent years, increased slightly from 482 last year to 486 now. Of the four sending communities, Orford sends the greatest number of students to the district, 157.

To explain the downward trend, Needham pointed to the economy and jobs. She said if the economy were to grow, she would expect it to have a positive impact on school enrollment.

She also noted, “some of our bigger classes have graduated in the last few years.”

If voters approve all warned articles, Orford taxpayers can expect to pay $3,960 on a home valued at $200,000; owners of a similar home in Fairlee would pay $3,658; in West Fairlee, $3,746; and in Vershire, $3,918.

An estimated 7 cent per $100 of value increase to the base education rate in Vermont is leading to some projected increases in the Vermont towns, though Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he wants to curb the impact.

“We expect this potential increase may be adjusted when the Vermont Legislature finalizes their deliberations,” the Rivendell board wrote in its mailing to district residents.

Needham noted that a $495,000 asbestos removal project at Rivendell Academy, approved by voters last year, was completed within budget and finished before the beginning of the school year.

In addition to removing asbestos, the project included rewiring, new ceilings, new flooring, and fresh paint, she said.

Director of Operations Gary Collins acted as general contractor for the project, which helped contain the project’s costs, she added.

The district will pay off debt for the project in five years with annual payments of approximately $125,000, Needham noted.

Among School Board seats, incumbent Katherine Blanchard of Orford is running unopposed in the at-large seat she currently occupies. Other School Board seats will be decided by voters of each individual town on Tuesday.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com.

CORRECTION

Enrollment in the Rivendell Interstate School District increased from 482 last school year to 486 now. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect figure.