Town Meeting preview: Proposed Rivendell budget hike blamed on health care costs

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2019 9:36:59 PM
Modified: 3/1/2019 9:37:09 PM

The Rivendell Interstate School District Annual Meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at Rivendell Academy in Orford. Voting for the district’s elected positions will begin at 6 p.m. on March 19 at the academy.

ORFORD — Voters at the annual Rivendell Interstate School District Meeting will be asked to approve a budget increase of 5.1 percent, bringing the district’s operating budget to $11.3 million.

While higher than last year’s 1 percent increase, Rivendell School Board Chairman Marc DeBois said it’s largely unavoidable because of soaring health insurance costs.

“Of the 5 percent increase, 4 percent of it is because of the rise in health insurance,” DeBois said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s up more than 11 percent. The (total budget increase) hasn’t really been very controversial within the board, because that part of it is out of our control.”

Other budget increases include a $29,200 increase in allotted funding for snow plow service and a $23,000 increase for legal services.

Budget reductions include $47,850 against library funding $79,900 reduced from the guidance department and $24,252 trimmed from early essential education funding.

In early December, Superintendent Elaine Amour — who in January announced she was leaving the district after just two years — had proposed eliminating a part-time elementary librarian and full-time elementary literacy teacher, among other positions, while adding positions including an academic mentor and paraprofessional at Rivendell Academy and increasing three positions from part-time to full-time, including her own.

After discussion with the School Board, Amour’s updated budget proposal for a January hearing had reinstated both the librarian and literacy teacher, allocated the RA mentor and paraprofessional to potential Medicaid funding and moved the three positions back to part-time.

“We’ve also added a full-time administrative assistant position since then, but we’re still working on a job description,” DeBois said. “It’s for someone who would assist both the Superintendent’s Office and School Board.”

If the budget is approved, Orford residents would have a projected education tax rate of $21.18 per $1,000 of a home’s valuation, or $5,295 on a home valued at $250,000. Fairlee residents would pay an estimated tax rate of $1.82 per $100 of valuation, or $4,548 on a $250,000 home, while West Fairlee property owners would see a rate of $1.83 ($4,575) and Vershire $1.91 ($4,769).

Barring write-in candidates, Katherine Blanchard is running unopposed for a 1-year, at-large School Board seat.

Fairlee voters will elect a candidate for a three-year term currently held by David Gagner, Orford residents will vote for a three-year seat currently held by DeBois and West Fairlee voters choose a candidate for a three-year seat held by Cory Austin.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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