An information meeting on the new consolidated budget will be held tonight, Thursday, January 10, at 7 pm at Twin Valley High School. Voting on the budget by Australian ballot will take place on January 17, from 10 am to 7 pm in both towns.
Whitingham voters may be in for an unpleasant surprise when they see their projected school tax. Although Whitingham’s school tax rate was slated to go up by about 11 cents even gafter board members cut programs and expenditures from the budget, a 5% drop in the town’s common level of appraisal has added 9 cents to that – for a total increase of just over 20 cents. Under the proposed budget, Whitingham’s residential school tax rate would be $1.62 cents. The nonresidential rate would be $1.40.
According to Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd, the change in Whitingham’s CLA was driven by a decrease in the valuation of TransCanada property in Whitingham. Boyd said the matter is under appeal by the town.
For Wilmington taxpayers, the news is significantly better. Their school tax rates will drop by more than a penny, to $1.50 for residential property owners.
The nonresidential education tax rate in Wilmington is projected at $1.33.
According to the board, the $9,363,511 consolidated budget reflects a savings of $442,908 thanks to the consolidation of the two towns’ elementary schools. Board members say additional savings will be realized next year when the middle and high schools are consolidated in one building.
Whitingham’s 43.95% share of the budget (based on the number of Whitingham students in the Twin Valley system) is $3,681,992. Wilmington’s 56.05% share is $4,696,001.
In related matters, the board also discussed possible articles for the two towns’ Town Meeting warnings. Boyd noted that some changes in the joint school agreement were in order. Under the original Twin Valley agreement there were two budget processes – the Twin Valley budget, and each town’s school budget. Because the individual town school budgets included the Twin Valley assessment, the Twin Valley budget had to be passed early in the cycle – by mid-January. Both towns have struggled to deal with timing issues with the two budgets.
Under the current consolidated agreement, virtually all school expenditures are covered in the Twin Valley budget, and Boyd suggested an article to consider moving the Twin Valley budget vote back to Town Meeting day. “And do we want to warn that as going back to a regular floor vote?” he asked.
Board members considered the idea, but abandoned it after realizing that the two towns would have to meet in a single meeting to pass the school budget by voice vote. “If we were to have a floor vote, we’d have to have it at some time other than Town Meeting day,” noted board member Doug Swanson.
Board members also discussed changing the makeup of the board, perhaps adding more board members. After some discussion on the matter, business manager Karen Atwood noted a statute that specifies how the number of board members, and the distribution of board members of each town, is figured in a joint school district. The distribution of board members is figured based on each town’s average daily membership. Atwood said it was likely that Whitingham would soon gain another member on the board.
In other matters, board member Phil Taylor offered an update on construction on the consolidated elementary school in Wilmington. “It’s going really well,” Taylor said. “We’ll be ready to start framing the structures soon. We’ve received our full construction permit from the Department of Education, so we’re clear on that.”
Taylor said that clerk of the works Gordon Bristol had already saved more than $80,000 in the cost of interior cabinetry. “Having a clerk of the works is great,” Taylor said. “I think Gordon has already paid for himself.”