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Superintendent Ricca Explains School Budget Impact

Dr. Brian Ricca. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Dr. Brian Ricca. Photo by Carla Occaso.

MONTPELIER – “As an education professional, I know part of our job is not only to contain costs, but also retain, if not expand, opportunities for students,” said Dr. Brian Ricca, superintendent of the Montpelier Public School system, during an oral presentation to the Montpelier Chapter of the Rotary Club at the Capitol Plaza Jan. 12.

The budget approved by the school board last week came in at a .85 percent increase, but after the state funding formula is factored in, Montpelier homeowners will see “a less than 3 percent increase on your actual tax bill,” according to Ricca. He explained it further:

“If you own a 200,000 house, your taxes are going to go up approximately $93 dollars. If you own a $300,000 house, your taxes are going to go up $139. The average house in town is somewhere in the vicinity of $223,550 and those taxpayers are going to see a tax increase of $104.”

Montpelier schools are doing very well statewide when comparing state achievement tests, with the exception of a slight weakness in the areas of math and science. Enrollment is going up. Montpelier High School has attracted the attention of National Public Radio’s show “Here and Now,” and the television show “Edutopia,” without effort on the school’s behalf.

“We are putting a lot of stock into recruiting international students. There are six Chinese students enrolled this semester.” That represents $42,000 in direct revenue because students pay $7,000 per semester.

When discussing other ways of saving education costs, some Rotary members brought up the cost of pensions, health care and reducing the amount of teacher’s aides. Ricca said he and his administration were working with the teacher’s union to make some changes. In addition, the topic of school consolidation was also raised. Ricca said he has not seen any reports or evidence that school consolidation would help drive down education costs
because Montpelier’s tax rate is lower than almost all the schools in the Washington Central Supervisory Union. To join a larger district would cause Montpelier taxpayers to take on higher costs and slow down decision making with added layers of bureaucracy.