WILMINGTON — Twin Valley’s proposed $10,177,905 budget for fiscal year 2023, which includes investments in new programs with federal coronavirus relief funds, is on March 1 ballots with articles aimed at to spend much of the excess funds intelligently.
School board president Janna Ewart said school taxes associated with the new spending plan are expected to increase 1.2% in Wilmington and decrease 4.5% in Whitingham. Tax rates are expected to drop 13 cents in Whitingham and increase 2 cents in Wilmington, but the numbers have not been finalized.
Several factors help determine tax rates, including changes in real estate values in cities and the number of students to whom special weights are added. These weights take into account poverty, the age of the students and the ability to speak English.
The state has imposed a two-year moratorium on financial penalties for school districts that exceed a spending threshold based on average education costs. In years past, Twin Valley and other rural districts have been impacted by the measure, and lawmakers are exploring ways to better weight students to make them fairer.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 is up nearly 14% from the current year. Ewart pointed to Bill 173, a state law changing how special education funding is allocated from supervisory unions to schools, as the main driver but not the only increase in spending.
This increase of about $800,000 in special assessments is offset by a census-based subsidy of about $900,000, she said. Another increase concerns the adjustment of pay rates to attract more staff.
“We’ve had staffing issues that I’m sure everyone else has,” Ewart said.
In Twin Valley’s 2022 annual report, the board said the college/high school has expanded its offerings with business entrepreneurship and financial literacy courses in an effort to increase opportunities for students. Part of the budget allocates funds from the Federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund to Twin Valley Middle School’s Pathfinder program, which operates as a pilot project with five students and is modeled after the Walden project in Monkton as an alternative route to graduation.
New to the area is Andy Oyer, assistant manager of Twin Valley who ran Pathfinder. He came from a large district in Pinellas County, Florida, which could offer plenty of school choices for high school students.
“Part of my administrative career there was opening, expanding and supporting a variety of school choice programs,” he said. “I hope that graduating students who would otherwise choose not to continue their studies, as well as being able to make the program a regional attraction for tuition cities with a focus on retention and graduation for students who will succeed in a non-traditional environment.”
According to a weekly school update, Pathfinder participants “learn in flexible environments beyond the traditional classroom, such as outdoor classrooms, on-the-job training, courses, excursions and other on-site experiences. Students will consider and submit portfolio evidence for credit in an effort to provide an alternative option for graduation.
A program coordinator is sought. The goal is to have more places for registration in the fall of 2022.
The ESSER funds spending plan also includes a new collaborative program being developed within the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union called A Portrait of Student Success. Community members, educators and school leaders were invited to curriculum design meetings to rank landscape changes in the world, work and education in terms of importance to schools.
“In our communities, we have diverse perspectives, but we all have a common aspiration that all students have an educational experience that prepares them to be lifelong learners and contributors, today and tomorrow. “, indicates a document of the program. “A Student Success Snapshot is a collective vision that articulates our district’s aspirations for all of our students. »
With approximately $1.1 million in surplus funds from the previous fiscal year, the plan is to apply some of it to reducing tax bills. Ewart said a financial consultant hired by the district warned the council not to spend all the money on tax cuts or it would experience “a fiscal cliff.”
“I guess that’s becoming a thing for multiple cities,” Ewart said of the surplus, “because so many people generated an extraordinarily large fund balance last year due to COVID.”
Ewart had previously told the reformer that the large surplus was related to vacancies and pandemic-related grants covering budgeted expenses.
Twin Valley voters will consider creating a dedicated fiscal stabilization reserve fund to “smooth out the bumps” and use excess money in the fund balance over the years, Ewart said. This aims to prevent “excessive fluctuations in our taxes”.
Recently, the board received notification that the district should have an additional $500,000 in surplus funds this year. In total, the district is estimated to have a surplus of $1.7 million.
Ewart thinks the fiscal stabilization fund will help clarify the new money being generated versus the old.
“Everyone wants a share of that fund balance,” she said. “As a board of directors, we believe that it is very important to use the money to stabilize taxes, to give it back to our taxpayers.
If people want new programs, Ewart said, the council will look for ways to fund them.
A separate article asks voters to transfer about $797,040 of the surplus into the fiscal stabilization fund.
Another consideration for voters is adding $300,000 of the surplus to the maintenance reserve fund, which is used for capital projects such as construction, painting and paving. Ewart said the estimated cost of boilers due for replacement at Twin Valley Elementary School over the next budget cycle is $200,000.
Ahead of the ballot in both cities, a remote information hearing is scheduled for February 22.