Bristol Elementary budget revised for revote; residents to decide June 16

BRISTOL — The Bristol Elementary School (BES) board is targeting Tuesday, June 16, for revote on a revised fiscal year 2015-2016 budget proposal that will be roughly $11,000 less than the spending plan local residents last rejected on April 14.
At a Monday meeting, board members are expected to settle on an exact spending amount to warn for that public revote.
Bristol residents will actually be asked to go to the polls twice in June. In addition to a third referendum on the Bristol Elementary budget, voters will field a Mount Abraham Union High School spending plan (also for the third time) on Tuesday, June 9.
Bristol Elementary officials considered holding their budget vote in tandem with MAUHS on June 9, but ultimately agreed that waiting the additional week would give them more time to prepare and send out two informational flyers to all local taxpayers, hold some public meetings, and inform residents of their ability to vote by absentee ballot, if needed.
Draft minutes from the board’s most recent, May 11 meeting indicated at least two board members — including Chairman Steve Barsalou — were opposed to holding the BES revote on the same date as that of Mount Abraham’s. Some board members indicated they believed it might be in the BES budget’s best interest to distance itself from a Mount Abraham spending plan that has proven even less popular.
The Mount Abe spending proposal of $14.02 million defeated by a 744 to 485 margin on April 14 was $36,000 less than the original plan rejected on Town Meeting Day, and $69,000 less than the budget for the current fiscal year. It would have cut the equivalent of 5.5 professional staff positions and the equivalent of 2.3 full-time support staff positions. On Town Meeting Day, 46.7 percent supported the Mt. Abe budget proposal. On April 14, just 39.1 percent of residents voted “yes.”
The cost of holding the separate revote on the BES budget on June 16 has been placed at around $200, according to the May 11 minutes.
“I feel very hopeful about it,” BES board member Krista Siringo said during a phone interview about the prospects of getting the elementary school budget passed on what will be the third try.
Siringo also voiced concern about the added cost of borrowing money for next year’s budget if a spending plan is not approved by June 30. And she said the fiscal uncertainly for next year is affecting planning efforts at BES.
The board’s current budgeting priorities, she said, are to ensure no further staff cuts, to prevent deterioration of the school building and grounds, and to make no further cuts in the services being provided to students.
Voters defeated the original BES budget proposal of $4.931 million by a tally of 377 to 267 on Town Meeting Day in March.
The school board put together a revised spending plan that trimmed $2,700 in spending. Thanks to some reduced spending in other areas, the revised budget would have allowed for some instructional positions to be saved — positions that had not been included in the plan that went down on Town Meeting Day. Still, the revised budget — which represents a 2.71-percent spending boost over this year — would have cut one teacher and three non-special education aides.
But residents rejected that new spending plan on April 14 by a 224-166 tally.
Some school officials believe they have received some mixed signals about voter discontent about the budget.
While some citizens have said spending is still too high, others have said the budget proposals cut too much out of the school program. And other residents have said their “no” votes have been intended as signals of their displeasure about the leadership of current Addison Northeast Supervisory Superintendent David Adams. Back on March 24, hundreds of residents turned out at an ANeSU board meeting in Lincoln to support a citizens petition seeking the firing of Adams. The district’s teachers union at that same meeting announced a near-unanimous vote of no confidence in the superintendent’s leadership.
BES board members have not settled on an exact spending figure that will be warned for the June 16 revote, but they feel comfortable in saying it will be less than what was voted on last time. BES board member Chris Scrodin said the board — in consultation with Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Chief Financial Officer Howard Mansfield — has found $11,000 within this year’s spending plan that can be applied to a roof project at the school. That money was to have been part of the 2015-2016 budget, Scrodin noted.
Bristol Elementary officials are scheduled to meet next on Monday, May 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the BES library to hear the budget proposal, approve it, and send it to be warned.
Scrodin, like Siringo, is hopeful the new budget proposal passes muster with the voters.
“Our hope is to put out a better explanation,” Scrodin said of the public information campaign that will precede the June 16 referendum.
Multiple attempts to reach Mansfield by phone and email were unsuccessful as the Addison Independent went to press on Friday. Attempts to reach Bristol Elementary board Chairman Steve Barsalou and Vice Chairwoman Elin Melchior by email and phone were also unsuccessful.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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