Brandon voters OK Neshobe School budget on second try

BRANDON — Voters OK’d a revised Neshobe Elementary School budget in an April 22 re-vote, by a tally of 458-276.
Around 60 percent of those who showed up at the polls this past Tuesday favored the spending plan, which was defeated March 4 (638-576); but only a little more than half as many people cast ballots compared with the Town Meeting Day election.
The $5,321,670 spending plan contained a 1.36 percent increase in expenditures over the current budget and will raise the local school tax rate by 1 cent, from $0.69 to $0.70.
Tuesday’s vote result was a far cry from Town Meeting Day in March, when the original school budget was defeated by a mere 62 votes. That budget represented a 2.03 percent increase in spending, despite elimination of a kindergarten paraeducator position, a technology support position and a speech and language paraeducator, and reducing contracted maintenance services. That budget would have raised the tax rate by three cents.
The Neshobe School Board trimmed an additional $35,000 from that initial offering for the re-vote. On April 9, the board approved a new budget proposal that also cut $10,000 from a reserve fund contribution for the SOAR afterschool program, and a $25,105 savings with the retirement of fourth-grade teacher Joan Wright.
The board has been budgeting an annual $20,000 contribution to a reserve fund for the SOAR afterschool program for the past five years. The latest budget change cut that contribution to $10,000. The program is 50 percent funded by a federal 21st Century grant, and the reserve fund is in place to pay for the program when the grant is no longer available.
The Neshobe School has enjoyed fairly consistent enrollment numbers at a time when many school populations are declining. Declining enrollment raises the per pupil spending in many districts, as the state education funding formula is based on enrollment and per pupil costs. The more students, the bigger a piece of the state education funding contribution a school receives. The Neshobe School’s per pupil spending is roughly $1,625 lower than the state average for schools of a similar size.
Voter turnout dropped considerably for the re-vote, with a total of 734 votes cast (26 percent of registered voters) on April 22 versus 1,214 votes cast on Town Meeting Day (43 percent of registered voters).
Neshobe’s was one of 32 school budgets defeated across Vermont on Town Meeting Day. In Addison County, voters defeated budgets for Ferrisburgh Central School and Vergennes Union High School. Revotes for both of those spending plans is set for May 13.
So far, eight Vermont schools have seen their budgets approved on revote, and eight have been defeated a second time.

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