Created on Thursday, 18 January 2007 07:47
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 January 2007 07:49
By Lisa Loomis
Employee insurance, a new librarian, a school capital reserve fund and fire department expenditures were among the budgeting items discussed by the Waitsfield Select Board this week.
At a January 15 meeting, the board continued its budgeting process in preparation for Town Meeting in March. The board heard its town clerks/administrator, the school principal, library trustees and the town fire department this week.
Town administrator Valerie Capels explained to the board how the town could switch from traditional medical insurance for employees to Health Savings Accounts and immediately realize a $6,000 savings. Capels, town clerk Jennifer Peterson and assistant town clerk Janet Smith discussed the medical insurance as well as the proposed budget for running the town offices with the board.
Board members had questions about the various components of medical coverage including, if the town switches to Health Savings Accounts, whether and how the town could or would contribute to the deductible, to optional additions such as dental and optical and how such accounts would work with existing Flexible Spending Accounts, which Waitsfield employees currently have.
Next on the docket was Waitsfield Elementary School Principal Richard Schattman, who brought the board this year's proposed school budget which reflects a 5.9 percent increase over last year's budget. Due to Waitsfield's reappraisal, Act 68's vagaries and revenue based on a slight increase in enrollment due to preschoolers, the 5.9 percent budget increase will result in a 0.5 percent decrease in funds to be raised by taxes according to Schattman.
Schattman provided the board with statistics comparing Waitsfield to other Vermont schools in terms of performance, class size and compensation. He said the new budget includes increasing the availability of the school counselor by one day a week, increasing physical education by a half day a week, the school nurse by a half day a week and hiring a half-time special educator while cutting one paraprofessional.
He told the board that Waitsfield's average teacher's salary of $48,639 was $3,000 over the Vermont average, noting that part of the reason is the cost of living in The Valley. Waitsfield's class sizes are capped at about 15 in kindergarten, 20 per class in the primary unit and 23 to 25 in the upper unit.
Schattman thanked the board for the town's efforts in getting the school parking lot paved, which led to a discussion of the percentage of students who ride the school bus. He said that of the school's 150 to 180 students (including preschoolers), only 50 students ride the bus. The board asked whether the school does anything to promote riding the bus or raise the issue as an environmental issue and/or a health issue in terms of air quality in the parking lot.
Library trustees Art Conway and John Reilly followed Schattman and presented the Joslin Library's budget request for the coming year. They told the board that the library had hired a new librarian and asked the town for $53,090 or 4.5 percent more than last year. Waitsfield-Fayston volunteer fire department fire chief Delbert Palmer presented the fire department's budget, explaining that an initial bottom line increase of $1,800 was changed when a 12.1 percent increase in insurance was factored in.
Palmer told the board that the fire department had some expensive repairs to the town's 25-year-old pumper truck which had to have its whole brake system redone. The truck has only 6,000 miles on it and is otherwise in good shape, he said. His budget also reflected a request for a training dummy which is life-size and can be used to train fire fighters to locate a human in a fire, extract that person and learn to perform CPR while removing the person from the fire.
The budgeting work will continue this month.