RAVC Tuitions Headed Sharply Up

Front Page / Jan. 11, 2001 12:00am EST

The Randolph Area Vocational Center’s new seven-town board has approved a $2.27-million budget for 2001-02, up 6.4% or $136,000 from last year.

The tuition rate charged to sending towns, however, will balloon by 65%, however, because of lower enrollments in recent years, coupled with a big drop in other revenues this year.

Increased costs to each sending town, however, will vary depending on enrollments, now calculated using a six-semester rolling average.

Randolph’s vocational assessment is slated to jump 84%, from $85,860 to $158,500, for example, while Brookfield’s assessment will increase by $10,450, a 47% increase from last year.

Voters in Braintree, Brookfield, and Randolph—the "home district" of the regional vocational center— will be asked to approve the budget on Tuesday, Feb. 6, the same day a $4.96-million RUHS budget is voted.

In a series of budget meetings in November and December, interlocal board members and RAVC administrators chopped more than $44,000 from the budget draft first submitted by Director Kevin Christie. That budget had a 12.6% increase.

Cuts included several big equipment purchases, including a $5000 lift for the automotive shop and a $2000 video editing deck for media and communications. The board also trimmed substantially the requests for computer software, instructional travel, and equipment repair.

The board retained, however, $16,000 for replacement of a roof ventilator unit and $5200 for a new German exchange program.

The structure of this year’s budget makes it tough to calculate budgeted increases for teacher salaries and benefits.

Salaries that were listed under separate program areas last year are now lumped in one category, but health insurance costs were left spread out. As a result, teachers’ salaries under "Instruction" show a whopping 33% increase, while health insurance costs, in the same category, show a 5.5% drop.

The shifting is apparently related to the fact that negotiations are underway for a new contract with the district’s teachers. The RAVC board—as well as the Randolph, Brookfield, Braintree, and RUHS boards—have reportedly budgeted for salary and benefit costs based on a not-yet-disclosed board plan. (The proposed RUHS budget, which had little shifting of line items, contained a 3.3% increase for salaries and a 15% increase for health insurance.)

$78,800 Deficit

The RAVC board also budgeted a new item: $39,400 to retire half of a $78,800 deficit in the current fiscal year. That deficit, according to meeting minutes, was caused by lower-than-anticipated enrollments and revenues, and the costs of borrowing money after the state withheld funds last year because of late paperwork.

Christie said this week that the board decided to fund only half of the deficit this year so that the tuition-based assessments to sending towns would not "jump astronomically."

As it is, the proposed budget will require a hefty 65% increase (from $2154 to $3561) in the tuition rate for the 24 towns that send students to the vocational center.

Christie said the recent drop in student numbers was due, in part, to the center’s tougher requirements for admission. Also, he said, the center can no longer include students in the Project Advance program, and that resulted in a one-time drop of about 20 students.

Vocational center enrollments are now at about 165 and heading up, and tuitions will be heading down if that trend holds, Christie said.

There is a waiting list for a new computer technology program, which may be divided into two strands—one for hardware and one for software, he said.

Tuition rates and enrollment formulas for vocational education have dramatically changed over the past few years. Two years ago, the per-pupil tuition rate was much higher—$8500—and single-year enrollment figures were used.

The new system, using the rolling average and the lower tuition rate, was designed to protect towns from big and unpredictable swings in tuition costs. Some towns, such as Randolph, however, will see a big jump this year, even with the new system.

An informational hearing on both the RAVC and RUHS budgets will be Monday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium.

By Sandy Cooch

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