Ferrisburgh says ‘no’ to its school budget, ‘yes’ to Bixby

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents in Tuesday balloting at Ferrisburgh Central School said no for the first time in recent memory to a proposed central school budget.
Residents from the floor of Tuesday morning’s town meeting, also in the central school gym, also rejected in a tie vote a selectboard proposal to change the way the town will pay delinquent tax collector Chet Hawkins, amended the selectboard’s proposed town budget to offer more support to the Bixby Library, and changed future town meetings from Tuesday mornings to Saturday morning.
Elected to office for the first time were write-in candidate Gloria Warden as town clerk and Garrit Smits as treasurer (see story on Page 2A).
 The $3.62 million FCS budget proposal lost, 450-279, or about 62-38 percent. The budget called for an 11 percent spending increase, driven in part by a special education cost shift within Addison Northwest Supervisory Union.
But the board also proposed adding a new teacher and a modular classroom to help handle a large blended 5th- and 6th-grade class, a move that neither the FCS administration nor Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials endorsed.
Voters did back FCS technology and capital improvement funds.
Ferrisburgh residents also voted against the proposed $9.73 million VUHS budget, 435-294. Overall, that budget lost in the five ANwSU towns, 961-747.
A separate measure to start a $50,000 capital investment fund for VUHS lost in Ferrisburgh, 476-352, and failed overall by six votes, 902-896, despite winning approval in the other four ANwSU towns.  
After selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence introduced the selectboard’s proposed budget, Bixby Library board President Peter Morris made the case for restoring $13,559 to the budget to a town support level of $52,559, as residents had at the 2013 town meeting.   
He presented a chart showing nine towns’ per capita support for their libraries, which ranged from a low of $23.29 to a high of $69.53.
Included was Middlebury at $61.53 and Bristol at $31.74. What the Bixby was asking from Ferrisburgh and its other four served towns was $18.94 per capita, Morris said.
Morris said he would meet with selectboard members at another time to discuss their cut to Bixby support, but on Tuesday sought town meeting backing.
“I’m going to ask them at some appropriate time how it makes sense to them,” Morris said. “But it doesn’t make sense to me.”
Selectboard members asked about Bixby staffing and salaries, but all but one audience member who spoke backed the Bixby
Judy Chaves said she did not understand why Morris even had to return to explain the issue after residents backed the higher amount in 2013.
“I am sitting here in embarrassment,” Chaves said. “I feel bad you have to sit here and defend the Bixby Library.”
After a voice vote filled the room with ayes, resident Rick Ebel asked a rhetorical question.
“How do we get the selectboard to understand that as a community we want to maintain this level of support?” Ebel said.
With the Bixby amendment included, residents unanimously backed a $1,674,338 budget for the 2014-2015 year and then added another $30,840 in charitable contributions.
The resulting total of $1,705,178 increases spending by almost exactly $35,000. The expected tax hike to pay for town spending alone will be a little less than a penny.
The central school board suggested the meeting move from Tuesday mornings to Saturday mornings.
Board member Chris Kayhart told the crowd that the board would like to continue to “showcase the school,” but that having to close the school for the day was a needless disruption to its schedule.
Board member Bill Clark joked the only people he knew in favor of keeping the Tuesday time were his children, students who enjoyed the day off.
Selectman Jim Warden said it was hard for residents who “live from paycheck to paycheck” to take time off from work to attend weekday meetings.
“We owe it to that silent majority who can’t get time off, and the school, to give it a shot,” Warden said.
It remained unclear if all Australian balloting would move to the nearby town office building, because some were concerned it lacked parking for heavily attended Presidential elections, but only a scattering of nays cropped up during the voice vote.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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