School Budgets: What goes into the central office assessment?

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The GMUSD finance committee deadlocks on the district budget for the first time on Jan. 9. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

In recent weeks, the finance committee of the new Green Mountain Unified School District deadlocked twice, refraining from recommending to the full board a budget put forward by the Two Rivers Supervisory Union.

But the GMUSD board reluctantly approved that budget (with a token $30,000 reduction) noting that it had to put something before the voters on Town Meeting Day.

At several of these meetings, members of the public have questioned the expenditures for the supervisory union’s “central office” that sits in the “board of education” portion of the budget. One even claimed that that raises for TRSU staff ranged from 3 to 10 percent. The supervisory union noted that the spreadsheet that showed those percentages contained an error and issued another. Click here to see a copy of the TRSU Central Office budget.

The Two Rivers Supervisory Union currently oversees multiple school districts for seven towns. If the Feb. 6 re-vote in Ludlow leaves that town’s merger with Mt. Holly intact, TRSU will supervise just two districts including GMUSD.  By law, the special education teachers and paraprofessionals are supervisory union employees and the costs of those who work in the three GMUSD schools — Chester-Andover and Cavendish Town elementaries and Green Mountain High — are charged to the district budget. In addition, TRSU provides “central office” functions to the district. These include the superintendent, financial officer, bookkeeping and payroll staff, technology specialist, curriculum director and human resources.

Currently, the Ludlow and Mt. Holly districts (including Black River High School) pay a portion of these expenses based on student population, with about 60 percent of the central office charged to GMUSD. And, in the approved budget, this is an assessment of just over $665,000 with a “contingency” line of $150,409 that is set aside for things like salary increases that won’t be decided on until the spring.

The one exception in salary increases is for Superintendent Meg Powden who – if the budget is approved – will receive a raise of 5.58 percent from $125,580 to $132,590. In the 2017-2018 budget, the superintendent received a 9.2 percent raise, going from $115,000 to $125,580, according to the central office budget.

Recent changes have decreased the premiums that the supervisory union is paying for health insurance for its employees, but those are offset by TRSU’s contributions to employee health savings and health reimbursement accounts. More precise classification of employees has also resulted in some reduction in the charges for worker’s compensation insurance.

One oddity is a new line for “meeting food” for $4,500. Close inspection also finds lines like “salaries, mail courier” for $6,815 when the actual expenditure for the line averages less than $1,300 for the past two years.

The TRSU Executive Committee serves the function of finance committee in reviewing and recommending the budget to the full board. It will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 to put its final stamp of approval on the plan. The full board will meet a 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held at Cavendish Town Elementary School, 573 Main St., Proctorsville.




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  1. Denise Hughes says:

    This information is so critical for voters to understand. When you look at the additional costs in the proposed budget under “Central Office” you will also see roughly $80,000 to maintain a 10-person TRSU office at Fletcher Farms. I’m sure each school would be happy to find room for the TRSU staff to save money or fund enhanced educational programs for students. Taxpayers cannot be duped into believing the rise in education costs are the schools. They are the cost of the overinflated administration.