The local school taxes for Montpelier and Roxbury could go down based on a state education fund surplus, school board members learned at their meeting last week. The surplus could reduce the tax rate by as much as 8% in Montpelier and 10% in Roxbury, according to superintendent Libby Bonesteel. However, at least one board member posed the question of adding items into the budget rather than lowering taxes – and all the factors related to the budget are not yet in. “If the actual numbers come in, is there an opportunity here to add something to the budget because I am just not sure if we have to provide a decrease in the tax rate,” said board member Emma Bay Hanson. Initial state funding information for fiscal year 2024 indicated that Montpelier may see a significant increase in its property taxes, so the administrative team developed a lean budget, increased by 4.279%. Updated information since then, however, showed that it actually increased the school district’s anticipated “dollar yield” – the amount school districts get per student from $1 raised on the tax rate — by $2,000, to $15,479. This change, according to superintendent Libby Bonesteel, “significantly impacts our tax rate” by lowering it. For Montpelier, this results in an anticipated 8% decrease (13 cents) and for Roxbury a 10% decrease (14 cents) in the school portion of the residential tax rate. The figures for common level of appraisal and the equalized pupil numbers — both of which impact state funding — will be released by the state on Dec. 15. Board member Jill Remick, who works for the Vermont Tax Department, said ”For the purposes of our conversation [Common Level of Appraisal estimated numbers, slightly below last year’s] are numbers that we can use.”Union Elementary School is experiencing decreasing student enrollment, and the city has seen a significant decline in its birth rate, according to Bonesteel. Roxbury enrollment is steady. Decreased enrollment negatively impacts state funding. Cost increases in the proposed budget include an increased health insurance rate of 12.6%, or $296,038, and an increase in district liability insurance of 5.5%. These rate increases are a statewide problem for school districts. This year, the district is also in contract negotiations with teachers and instructional assistants. Andrew LaRosa, facilities director, noted that the facilities budget anticipates a 30% increase in energy costs over last year’s budget, making less money available for other expenses. The status of the fund balance — the fund that will pay for a $1.8 million track renovation — will be a part of this budget discussion because continuous improvement of the school system and alignment with the feedback from the community is a priority of the school board. The fund balance is made up of budgeted dollars from previous budgets that have been unspent; as of June 30, it holds $3,894,311. Lyn Turcotte, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, and grandparent of students in the school district, was appointed to fill the vacant board seat formerly held by Amanda Garces.