Woodstock Faces $800K School Bond

Voting on the Woodstock Union High School District budget, bond and officers will take place by Australian ballot in each member town on Tuesday, March 4. All other warning items will be decided at Woodstock Union High School’s Teagle Library on March 12.

Woodstock — Voters will be asked to approve an $800,000 bond issue at Town Meeting on March 4 to acquire real estate, replace the supervisory union’s roof, renovate the high school’s aging windows and change-out one of two boilers at the school.

Residents casting ballots for Woodstock Union High School District will also be asked to approve a budget that proposes a 3.5 percent increase in spending, to $11.7 million.

“I don’t think there is anything really alarming about this budget,” said Director of Finance and Operations David Leenders, who took the post last summer.

The bond is broken down into four separate warning articles, each to be voted on separately.

The first asks voters to approve $300,000 for purchasing land that abuts the union high and middle school to construct a second egress to the property. The new entrance and exit would send vehicles onto Mill Road, and would be used mainly for emergency access. A building on the property will also allow for additional storage, School Board member Brian Bontrager said.

In addition, voters will be asked to approve $150,000 to replace the roof on the Windsor Central Supervisory Union building, which suffers from functional problems; $150,000 to replace an aging boiler at the middle school; and $200,000 to renovate 30-year-old drafty windows at the high school, which was built around 1960.

The roof on the central office, which is on the high school grounds off Route 4 in Woodstock, is only 10 years old and Bontrager expressed frustration that the school district is having to undertake major repairs on something that ordinarily should have lasted at least 20 years.

“The shingles are starting to show some wear,” he said. “Some of the roof panels are just bad.”

With the bond money, insulation will also be added to the attic of the office building.

Leenders said “it is virtually impossible to predict” how many cents per $100 of valuation the bond would add onto the tax rate for the duration of the note, which would likely span a 10- to 15-year period. He said a bond taken out in 1994 is being retired, as the last debt service payment is included in the 2014-15 proposed budget.

The proposed spending plan represents an increase of $400,000, though the amount of money to be raised by taxes to support the proposed budget has decreased slightly.

This is, in part, because $400,000 in prior year’s surplus was applied to the proposed budget, Leenders said. About $160,000 in surplus money, which was applied to the budget as a transfer expense and accounts for a portion of the projected spending increase, is slated for c apital reserves to replenish building maintenance and heating accounts that were used over recent years.

Because of a proposed 7 cent increase in the statewide education homestead tax rate and a drop of 16 cents in Woodstock Union’s “equalized pupil” count, the tax rate would go up 8 cents to $1.76 per $100 of valuation. Based on those projections, the owner of a $250,000 home who doesn’t qualify for Vermont’s income sensitivity program would see an annual tax bill of $4,400.

“The biggest driver in the increase of the tax rate is in the amount determined at the state level,” Leenders said. “It is that way all around the state.”

Projected K-12 tax rates per $100 of assessed value in each town have Barnard at $1.73, Bridgewater at $1.88, Pomfret at $1.60, Reading at $1.89, Killington at $1.71 and Woodstock at $1.69.

Under those projected rates, all towns, except for Pomfret, would see a projected tax rate increase, from as little as 5 cents (Woodstock) to as much as 17 cents (Killington). Pomfret’s rate is projected to decrease 8 cents.

Voters will also weigh in on candidates running for office, though there are no contested races. Victoria Jas is running unopposed for a union school board seat, while a second seat has no candidates running for the position, as shown on the ballot. Incumbent Paige Hiller is running unopposed for the Woodstock Elementary School board.

The proposed 2014-15 Woodstock Elementary School budget is $3.2 million. The spending plan represents a roughly 7 percent increase over the current year’s spending, Leenders said.

Like many Vermont school districts, enrollment numbers continue to decline from year-to-year. This year there are nine fewer students attending the union high and middle school compared to last year, which brings the current enrollment to 525 students.

There will be an informational meeting to explain the budget and bonds on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Woodstock Union High School’s Teagle Library.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.