Monthly archive

February 2018

East Montpelier Amazon River Dolphins Create Reuse-It App

in 2017-18 School Year/STEM

The Amazon River Dolphins, a FIRST Lego League Team from East Montpelier, Vermont has been named ‘Best in State’ in the fifth annual Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge for their smart phone app, Reuse-it.

The Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge is a nationwide competition for students to design a smart phone app aimed at “solving societal issues in their schools and communities.” The learning experience is meant to spark greater interest in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.

The East Montpelier team will receive a $5000 award from the Verizon Foundation for the East Montpelier Elementary Parent Teacher Neighbor Org. and tablets for each of the students.  To learn more, view the news presentation on My Champlain Valley.

And to learn more about the Amazon River Dolphins, view their blog.

Meet the Candidates at Rumney

in 2017-18 School Year/Uncategorized

Please join us for a “Meet the Candidates” evening at Rumney Memorial School on Thursday, February 22, 6:30-8:30 pm.

Rumney school board candidates Alison Cornwall, Carolyn Kiniry-Roberge, Chris McVeigh, and Kevin Stephani will offer their views on key issues. The panel will be moderated by Susan Clark, Middlesex Town Moderator.

The evening will include candidates’ responses to questions, as well as informal time to share cider and cookies and chat with the candidates.

If you have a question or topic you’d like the candidates to address, feel free to email it to Susan ahead of time, or bring it to the event.

Hosted by the Middlesex Town Meeting Solutions Committee.
Questions? Please contact Susan at or 802/223-5824.

School Reports are online!

in 2017-18 School Year/Education Policy & Funding

Our School Reports are a way to celebrate and feature different events and programs in our school communities. These reports also highlight the progress on student learning and performance on various assessments, as well as what we are doing throughout our schools to ensure success for each and every student.

Click on the links below to view the reports.

Berlin School Report

Calais School Report

Doty School Report

East Montpelier School Report

Rumney School Report

U-32 School Report

U-32 Annual Budget Report

Common Level of Appraisal and Other Mysteries of School Funding

in 2017-18 School Year/Education Policy & Funding

Town Meeting Day is right around the corner, so it’s time for an update on school funding and what we need to pay attention to in 2018.

Your school property tax: Your school property tax is a factor of four influences: the statewide property tax rate, school budget(s), equalized pupils, and the CLA, or Common Level of Appraisal, which equalizes property values across the state in order to make the statewide property tax fair. This system, created under acts 60 and 68, is designed to treat taxpayers and students in all Vermont towns fairly. Towns have equal ability to raise funds. The majority of taxpayers pay school taxes based on their income. Here’s how it works:

The statewide property tax: Under Act 68, the statewide property tax is $1.00 for residential property – your home – and $1.629 for non-residential property (businesses and second homes.) This rate is on each $100 of the property’s fair market value. When applied to all property statewide, this should raise enough to provide a basic education payment of $9,847 (the amount the state calculated is needed) for every equalized student* in the state. The statutory tax is rarely implemented. When there is a surplus in the education fund, the state may drop the statewide tax rate. For 2019, the Tax Commissioner has recommended the statewide property tax rate remain $1.00 residential and $1.629 non-residential. The property yield is expected to decrease from $10,160 to $9,842. This reduction is expected to result in state-wide average tax increases of approximately 9.5 cents.

The school budget: The state calculated the educational spending per equalized pupil base amount of $9,847. It takes more than $9,847 to educate a student; how much more is what school boards wrestle with as they set their budgets. When the school budget is final, the state tax rate for residential property is adjusted to locally raise taxes for spending above the basic education payment. The residential tax rate adjustments reflect both the U-32 and elementary school budgets. The non-residential tax rate is fixed and is not changed by the school budget. However, both rates are changed by the Common Level of Appraisal.

The Common Level of Appraisal: So far, we have seen that the statewide property tax rate raises enough to cover the basic education payment, and the local adjustment raises enough to cover the rest of the school budget. This combination of state and local tax rates works as long as all the property in the state is being taxed at 100% of its value.

Here’s how that works: If your $100,000 house is taxed at $1.05 per $100, it will raise $1,050 in taxes. But what if your cousin’s identical $100,000 house in another town is only appraised at $75,000? If the same $1.05 tax rate is used, your cousin will only pay $787.50. This is unfair.

To deal with the inequity of differing appraisals from town to town, the state comes up with a formula for each town that compares its appraisals to 100% of the fair market value – what your home is actually worth. This is the CLA; it represents the gap between appraised value and actual value. Instead of changing the appraisals the formula changes the town’s tax rate. Think of that $100,000 (fair market value) house again. If it’s appraised at $150,000, the tax rate is reduced to still raise the same $1,050. If it’s appraised at $100,000, the tax rate stays steady at $1.05. If it is appraised at $75,000, the tax rate is increased to still raise the $1,050 on that house. This CLA formula is applied to both the residential and non-residential property tax rates; so all education taxes are affected by the CLA.

Why CLA matters: When property values rise rapidly, the appraisals quickly fall behind the actual values, and the CLA drops from year to year. A small drop means a small increase in the tax rate; a big drop means a big change. When a town conducts a new appraisal, the CLA jumps up, often going above 100%. Tax rates fall. After that, as long as property values continue to rise, the CLA will continue to drop. In the past year, WCSU towns’ CLA changed: Berlin from 105.84 to 102.45; Calais from 98.48 to 98.51; East Montpelier from 94.94 to 95.83; Middlesex from 93.67 to 101.24; and Worcester from to 101.06 to 99.40. When the CLA drops, the tax rates rise so that the properties continue to generate the needed revenue. You would pay the same amount of tax if your house were appraised at 100% with a low tax rate as you do when your house is appraised at 75% with a higher tax rate. It’s a balance. It helps to think about the dollar amount of tax rather than the tax rate.

Putting it all together: With this year’s CLA adjustment, the increase in the state tax rate due to the decrease in the projected property yield and projected residential tax rate increases (decreases) are as follows (includes U-32 and respective elementary school budgets as proposed): Berlin +11.0¢; Calais +6.8¢; E. Montpelier +9.4¢; Middlesex +3.9¢; and Worcester +16.3¢.

The last but very important part of the equation is the income protection in Act 68. During calendar year 2016, 61% of the homeowners in our five towns did not need to pay the full amount of the education tax since they made less than the $141,000. For tax year 2016, the current income cap per household is $141,000 ($152,680 if working). Make sure that you apply for any homestead tax adjustment. Please help your relatives, friends and neighbors apply for adjustments if they are eligible. Even if you didn’t receive one in the past, it is worth applying for, because as the tax rates and income limits change, so does the eligibility. The tax department has a substantial outreach program to reach eligible citizens. If you have any questions, call the tax department at 828-2865. If you are eligible, the tax adjustment shows up right on your tax bill.

*Equalized students, or when is a student NOT a student? A school does not get $9,847 for every student body in the classroom. Say you get a point for each student. You get extra points for high school students, for state-placed students, for students who do not speak English, for low income students, and for various other categories. You even get extra points for not having ENOUGH students, if the decline in enrollment is so fast that the lack of revenue would make it impossible to run your school. The state adds up all the points, divides it by the number of actual students, and gives each school a number of equalized students which may or may not bear any resemblance to the number of actual students! The school then gets basic education funding for each equalized student. This same number is used to calculate the per-pupil expense, which is even more important these days than the total school budget. This is why declining enrollment is such a problem: when the school’s budget is divided among fewer pupils, the per-pupil cost goes up, and that affects the tax rate. Stay tuned!

Ksepka Receives Child Nutrition Award

in 2017-18 School Year/Celebrations

Washington Central Supervisory Union Data Manager/Transportation Coordinator, Michelle Ksepka, has received the 2017 Child Nutrition Administrative Leadership Award.

This recognition is presented to those who demonstrate outstanding leadership in support of child nutrition programs that ensure students are fed well within their school systems. Recipients understand the importance that proper nutrition plays in student success and have supported programs in their field of work.

In the nomination for the Child Nutrition Administrative Leadership Award, Business Manager Lori Bibeau and Superintendent Bill Kimball stated: “Michelle is our food service champion. When Michelle takes a new role, she always goes beyond to implement the work and provide support to others, as needed. Although Michelle’s hard work is behind the scenes, she makes a difference in the smooth operation of the food programs. Michelle is the unsung hero for the WCSU Food Programs.”

On October 19, 2017 Michelle accepted the Child Nutrition Administrative Leadership Award during the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association of Vermont. Pictured left: Michelle Ksepka with Erica Dolan, President-Elect, School Nutrition Association-Vermont.

January is Mentoring Month!

in 2017-18 School Year/Mentoring

In honor of Mentoring Month, I am happy to share my experience as a mentor with Girls/Boyz First mentoring program. I am not currently a mentor, as the young girl I was matched with at age 10 is now 20 years old. I count the years we spent together, week after week and year after year, as some of the best use of volunteer time that I have ever spent.

I volunteered to be a mentor when I retired from public school teaching. It so happened that this young girl’s mother had recently abandoned the family and left the state. She was referred by the school’s guidance counselor as someone who could benefit from having a mentor. It was perfect timing for both of us.

I found our match to be easy right from the start, as my mentee was enthusiastic about everything. Her favorite way to spend time was simply to come to our house, help make a meal and share it with my husband and me, and then play a board game. We did many other activities that program director planned for all the partners, such as ice skating, hikes, apple picking, game nights and holiday parties. My mentee loved horses and I knew nothing about them. We found another mentor who owned several and that led to a summer full of riding and an eventual weekend job at a stable. My mentee often called me in those early years, asking, “What are we going to do this week?” We both had fun.

Things weren’t always rosy. My mentee turned the teenage corner and had many conflicts with her father. She had trouble in school and often feigned sickness or injury to be able to stay home. She did not have much support at home in the way of encouragement, or role models from anyone who had enjoyed or had success in school. Her home life in general was challenging. During those years I think the most important role I played was that of consistency. I also had to try to impart some habits that I felt my mentee needed to cultivate. One was simply to learn to say “thank you,” and that took a long time.

When my mentee graduated from high school we stopped officially being a mentor/mentee pair. But, we have remained good friends and I am thrilled that she still counts on me to help her out and wants me to be involved in her adult life. She recently asked me to help her with a sewing project, saying, “ It’ll be like when you taught me how to sew!” Her life is not an easy one, as her family dynamics have not changed. However, I’m very impressed that she has earned an LNA (licensed nurse assistant) certificate, is employed, and lives on her own. She has many talents and an amazing amount of confidence for someone from her background. My role now is to continue to encourage her, help her out when I can, and still be that consistent, trusting adult who truly cares about her and her welfare.

Common sense tells us, and research has proven, that children have a better chance of success and future happiness when they have at least one caring adult with whom they can spend quality time and depend on to be there for them. There are so many stresses in today’s society and the reasons to look for mentor relationships outside of one’s own family are numerous and varied. I am so happy that Girls/Boyz First exists to try to fill that crucial role for children and families who reach out and request that support. Personally, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have a relationship with one child I would have never known and the satisfaction of knowing that we both benefited greatly from our friendship.

Wendy Dale

School House Rock

in 2017-18 School Year/Arts

Stage 16 Middle School students performed “School House Rock,” January 26 & 27, a rockin’ fun musical good for the whole family! The Emmy Award-winning 1970s Saturday morning cartoon series that taught history, grammar, math and more through clever, tuneful songs, performed by Stage 16, the Middle School Theater Group at U-32.

New Report Cards

in 2017-18 School Year/Education Policy & Funding

The elementary report card has been revised in order to better align it to Student Learning Outcomes. This video provides a 10-minute overview of the changes you can expect to see on the new report card.

Click HERE to view the video.

Trash Audit

in 2017-18 School Year/STEM

The U-32 Green Team held a trash audit in the atrium on Wednesday, January 24th. Green team members worked with CVSWMD folks to sort and weigh the trash, recycling and compost from Tuesday, January 23rd. This took place in the atrium where members of the Green Team worked during their free bands and lunch to sort through the waste. The event was set up in hopes of learning how well the U-32 school community does with composting and recycling and what might be done as a school to increase recycling and composting and reduce waste.

Go to Top