Windham Southeast School District Finance Committee Meeting Minutes – Feb 13, 2024

Windham Southeast School District
Finance Committee Meeting – Tuesday February 13, 2024
5:00pm at James Cusick Conference Room, BUHS and
remotely via Zoom
Committee Members Present: Shaun Murphy – Chairperson, Anne Beekman, Kim Price, Deborah Stanford,
Board Recorder: Tracey Drotts
Others present: Kristina Naylor, Jaci Reynolds, Maggie Foley, Laura Chapman (all members of the IBRC), Mark
Speno, Superintendent, Frank Rucker Business Administrator

The Meeting was called to order at 5:11 by Shaun Murphy

1. Approval of Minutes


Shaun called for a vote

Vote passed unanimously

2. VT Legislative developments affecting FY25 Budget; Review State Funding Formula updates

Shaun Murphy started off saying that in this time of uncertainty, his suggestion is that this committee is “Steady at the helm through these rocky waters”. The budget development started on 10/6/23. The work done by Frank Rucker and his team along with the Finance Committee has been thoughtfully and carefully developed, been through a process of presenting to the Board three times as well as to the finance committee an additional three times. This FY25 budget proposal has increased by 3%, which is in alignment with previous budget increases. Frank Rucker spoke about the lack of information from the legislature that would be needed to make assumptions on how this budget could be adjusted to affect the CLA equalized tax rate.

As of this current moment, the General Assembly has not passed anything yet to change the existing Act127 law, but believes that may happen this week. Frank and Mark Speno met with Emilie Kornheiser, and she is clear there seems to be a consensus that it is very likely the legislature will rescind the Act 127, 5% cap that was the guiding principle for all public schools in VT in developing the FY25 budget. This is an unprecedented situation. The implications for this committee and board is to consider what the reasonable alternative proposal be. With the absence of any real specifics (i.e. the “yield” statistic), it is difficult to make a recommendation.

Currently the general operating plan for the proposed budget ($65 million) it is a spending increase of 3%, which includes 16% increase in health insurance, collective bargaining agreement wage increases, and long term Capital Planning Improvements. The administration recommended that the Board moves forward with the March 19 th Annual Meeting for several reasons which included;

• The importance of staff retention which is facilitated by offering contracts.
• The ability to apply for grants, which would impacts completion of important Capital Improvement projects such as the Oak Grove Heat Pump replacement and roof improvements that will create damage if they are not addressed.
• The budget proposal we have represents a fiscally responsible plan to the extent that it reflects conditions the board controls (amount of spending). This FY25 budget reflects an equalized tax rate of $1.65, which is still less than the fiscal year 2022 equalized tax rate of $1.72. The comparison FY24 budget was artificially lowered by the legislature utilizing one time reserves which caused an unusual adjustment in the homestead tax rates.

Frank Rucker and Mark Speno are proposing moving forward with the proposed budget given the lack of a definitive legislated funding formula change. The FY25 budget represents investments needed to provide effective, safe and healthy learning environments based on student needs and enrollment. Ms. Kornheiser indicated it is reasonable that we will probably have a narrower range of the possible funding law changes including the “yield” statistics shortly after the March 5th Town meeting. That is what we need to make any other adjustments. We have until June 1st to submit our publicly approved budget to the tax department. At that point, Act 68 “off-setting revenues” can be considered in relation to Education Spending. There are fund balances that can be available and applied to reduce our tax liability.

Kristina Naylor brought up the concern about how to provide information to our voters in advance of the Town Meetings. She expressed that this retroactive change to current funding law just weeks before Town meeting is not responsible policy making by the legislature.

Discussion ensued around the path forward. The administration stated it is clear that we cannot present CLA adjusted tax rates to voters that are 20% higher. Our district, and other districts in VT, are all in the situation of having to revisit their budgets. If the 5% cap is rescinded by the legislators, it will precipitate lower district spending/higher assumptions on offsetting revenues across the state which will enable the legislature to increase the “yield”. The district has reasonable reserves which puts us in a position to help us get through this.

The Legislature has permitted districts and towns to postpone their budget votes, but this would cause challenges with employee retention, hiring new staff, and moving forward on Capital Plans. Shaun recommends that the Finance Committee recommend to the board that we do not postpone the March 19th Annual Meeting as being offered as on option by the Legislature. Kristina agreed with that recommendation in light of the fact that the Annual Meeting is an in person meeting and adjustments can be made from the floor.

3. Other Business

The Audit was just received. It will be reviewed with the School Board this evening.


Shaun called for a vote

Vote Passed Unanimously

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