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Health Insurance Drives Increase in Rivendell’s $9.5M Budget

Voters in the Rivendell Interstate School District towns of Fairlee, Orford, Vershire and West Fairlee will decide on the 2013-14 budget at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rivendell Academy in Orford. Voting for the district’s elected positions will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the academy.

Orford ­— The Rivendell Interstate School District’s proposed 2013-14 budget of $9.5 million represents an increase of just under of 1 percent over the current year’s budget. The increase of nearly $88,000 can be attributed to increased health insurance premiums for the district’s employees, to the tune of $108,000.

“The overall requests for budgets have gone down,” said Dick Paulson, Rivendell’s chief financial officer. “The health insurance was really the prime driver.”

Two other articles on this year’s warrant will also be paid for by taxes if approved. One article asks voters for $50,000 for a capital needs reserve fund and another, $495,000 for a five-year bond for an asbestos abatement project at Rivendell Academy. The approval of all monetary articles on the Rivendell warrant will have varying impacts on the tax burden across the four-town district. In Orford, which sends the most students to the Rivendell schools, the owner of a $200,000 home can expect to pay $4,014 in school taxes, while the owner of a home of the same value in Fairlee would pay $3,350; in West Fairlee, $3,930; and in Vershire, $3,670.

The warrant for Rivendell’s annual meeting also includes an article where voters will decide whether to move the annual meeting to the third Tuesday in March, starting in 2014.

Within Rivendell’s four towns are individuals concerned over rising school costs, especially as enrollment is down in the district, from 507 students in 2009-2010 to 482 students this year.

Several Orford residents have lamented the fact that they are shouldering more of the costs of running the district, as Orford enrollment has held steady, while there are fewer Vermont students attending the Rivendell schools. Per the district’s articles of agreement, each town’s share of the total budget is determined by the number of students it sends to the district.

The articles “could certainly be revisited at some point, but that would be up to the board to decide if they were going to go through that process again,” said Sandra Smith-Ordway of Fairlee, chairwoman of the Rivendell board.

There are no competitive races for the Rivendell School Board this year. Grover Boutin of Fairlee is running for the three-year seat being vacated by Smith-Ordway, while incumbents Marc Debois of Orford, Jean MacDonald of Vershire and David Ricker of Orford are running unopposed for the seats representing their towns. Incumbent Katherine Blanchard of Orford is running unopposed for an at-large seat on the board. Michael Fanizzi of West Fairlee is running for a two-year seat on the board recently left vacant by Jennifer Shatney’s resignation. No one filed to run for a three-year seat on the board representing West Fairlee.

Katie Beth Ryan can be reached at kbryan@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.