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Revised budget plan for Oxbow set for vote after June defeat

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2020 10:01:00 PM
Modified: 8/12/2020 10:00:52 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — The board of the Oxbow Unified Union School District has cut back on the district’s proposed budget and scheduled a second budget vote for Sept. 1 after voters rejected the spending plan at the end of June.

The board cut nearly $180,000 from the budget, bringing the bottom line to a little less than $17.1 million.

Bradford and Newbury residents voted, 520-323, to defeat an earlier proposal of $17.26 million on June 30.

The Oxbow district comprises Bradford and Newbury elementary schools, Oxbow High School and Riverbend Technical Center.

“We’re hoping that, obviously, we’ll have a successful vote,” Danielle Corti, chairwoman of the OUUSD board, said in a phone interview.

The board cut about 1.1% from the budget voters rejected. The cuts come from deferring some planned building projects, reducing teaching positions and a reduction in the Orange East Supervisory Union budget that was passed down to the Oxbow district. The new proposal remains 4.7% higher than last year’s $16.3 million budget.

There are some numbers that the district can’t adjust, such as a projected decrease in the number of students, which is driving the projected tax rate increase as much as the budget is. The estimated enrollment drop from 691 students to 675 is driving an increase in the cost per pupil from $16,800 to nearly $18,200.

As a result, the estimated education tax rate in Bradford would be $1.69 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of 7.25%, and the rate in Newbury would be $1.63, an increase of 4.5%. Most taxpayers, however, pay their education taxes as a percentage of income.

“It’s hard because there’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Corti said.

The new proposal still carries new initiatives, notably a universal school meals program. The district, formed in late 2018 under Act 46, Vermont’s school consolidation law, is still addressing what it needs to do to find efficiencies and bring costs down, Corti said. There’s an initial investment in common systems and curriculums that in the short term is sending costs in the other direction.

“We’re still doing it, but it’s coming at a slower pace” because of financial constraints, she said.

The district also is one of the lower-paying districts in the state, and will need to raise wages to retain faculty, Corti said.

It doesn’t help, she added, that schools are providing more services than ever before and yet “education is drastically underfunded” at the national and state level.

“I don’t see any end to that in sight and we don’t have any control over that,” Corti said.

The polls will be open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Bradford Academy Auditorium and the Newbury Town Office for Australian ballot voting. A public information hearing is planned for 7 p.m. Aug. 19 on the web platform Zoom.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

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