The Missisquoi Valley School District (MVSD) board has been reviewing budget drafts
for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which will be presented to voters on Town Meeting Day
in March. As with most industries in our region and school districts in Vermont, we are
being challenged with rising costs that will require us to make difficult decisions as a
community. We are asking for community members to engage in the budget preparation
process now, while there is time for input, to help the board reflect the priorities of our
three towns in the proposed budget.
The latest draft of the FY2024 budget that was brought to the board showed an
estimated 1.09% increase in our equalized tax rate. Some state-level variables have not
yet been finalized and could cause a significant change to the current estimates.
Many community members completed the budget input survey (results are available on
the MVSD website). The results showed that our community would like to prioritize
- Competitive pay and benefits to recruit and retain highly qualified employees
- Curriculum investments and instructional services to improve student academic
- Capital investments to improve and maintain safe and healthy school facilities
- Support for technical education, student apprenticeships/work readiness
The current version of the FY2024 budget reflects these priorities. The largest expense
in a school district is staffing, and the FY2024 budget includes increased pay for staff as
negotiated in the last professional staff contract cycle, and increases for support staff
that were put into place in January of 2022. We have received an immediate return from
this investment in the form of very low vacancy rates to start the current school year,
which was not the case in many school districts in our region and throughout Vermont.
Stable teams allow us to reap the benefits of investments in professional development
and experience gained, which help improve student outcomes.
Improved academic performance is a key priority for the board, and is one of the goals
set by the board for the district. The budget includes continued professional
development for staff, investments in social, emotional and behavioral support,
investments in truancy monitoring and intervention, and other strategies determined to
help influence student outcomes.
We have included a major facility investment in FY2024, to be paid directly from local
tax revenue, which is the replacement of the D pod roof at MVU. The roof at MVU is
now failing and the Facilities Committee of the board has developed a long-range plan
to replace all areas of the roof. The FY2024 budget includes $1.1 million, which
represents the second year (C pod completed last year) of a six-year plan. The
Facilities Committee has presented the urgent need for this roof project to be completed
as soon as possible. Segments of the roof are failing and the earlier phases must be
completed before work can begin on the most problematic areas. Delaying this project
will likely lead to increased costs in the long-run, so it is financially prudent to move
forward with this project now. The Facilities Committee preferred a phased approach
that can be included in the annual budget rather than a construction bond.
The board continues to invest in the Agricultural Sciences program at MVU and to
partner with Northwest Career & Technical Center, to increase access to technical
education for any students wishing to follow this path.
The latest draft of the FY2024 budget shows total net educational spending increasing
by 10.86%, including the MVU roof project. Excluding the roof project, spending is
increasing 8.15%. This increase is slightly lower than the expected statewide spending
increase of 8.52% as forecast by the Vermont Tax Commissioner. The reason that the
equalized tax rate can increase only 1.09% with increased expenditures is that there is
surplus revenue in the Vermont Education Fund which will be used to buy-down tax
rates across the state. This will help us absorb the cost of the critical MVU roof project.
The MVSD School Board meeting scheduled for January 3, 2023 at MVU will be entirely
devoted to an in-depth review of the proposed FY2024 budget. If you have
questions/comments or would like to provide input, please contact a board member
prior to that meeting. If you would like to hear the detailed review of the FY2024 budget,
please try to attend that meeting, or watch it on Northwest Access TV. The board is
scheduled to vote on a final budget to be put before voters on January 17th , so please
provide any additional comments or input before then.
Devin Bachelder, Chair
Missisquoi Valley School District Board