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Mount Abe high school budget easily prevails, 852-597

MIDDLEBURY — The third time proved to be the charm for the Mount Abraham Union High School budget, as Addison Northeast Supervisory Union voters on Tuesday approved the proposed 2015-2016 spending plan of $13,947,738 by an 852 to 597 tally.
The decisive endorsement by voters allows Mount Abe administrators and school directors to decisively plan for next year and to focus on hiring an interim principal to replace outgoing leader Gaynell Lyman.
“We are all very happy and relieved,” Mount Abraham School Board Chairwoman Dawn Griswold said on Wednesday of the vote results. “It has been a challenge to do this three times.”
Griswold believes the additional $75,000 in cuts and better board communication about the budget and its impacts made a big difference this time around.
“The Mount Abe Board is very thankful for the support of this budget from the five-town communities,” she said.
It was on Town Meeting Day this past March that local voters defeated an initial 2015-2016 MAUHS budget proposal of $14,068,551 by a 1,241-1,088 tally. That budget represented a $32,753 reduction in spending compared to the current fiscal year 2014-2015 spending plan, which runs through June 30.
Mount Abe directors cut $36,000 from that failed initial budget before delivering it to voters in April. But residents rejected that revised $14.02 million spending plan by a 755 to 485 margin.
School directors again went back to the drawing board and trimmed another $75,000 from the budget to produce the $13,947,738 proposal that voters passed on Tuesday. That proposal reflected a 1.02 percent decrease in spending compared to this year’s Mount Abe budget.
The positive vote will result in a reduction in Mount Abe-related education property taxes in all five of the ANeSU-member towns of Bristol, Monkton, New Haven, Starksboro and Lincoln. The resulting property tax reduction on a $200,000 home will be $84 in Bristol; $45 in Lincoln; $57 in Monkton; $18 in New Haven; and $66 in Starksboro, according to budget information publicized by the ANeSU central office prior to Tuesday’s vote.
The 2015-2016 spending proposal will result in a $339,898 reduction in the school’s salaries and benefits outlay. That’s because the budget reflects a reduction of 8.5 full-time-equivalent positions, including 5.3 FTE teaching positions in such categories as English, math, science, physical education, foreign language, learning center and driver’s education.
Savings were also derived through improving energy efficiency, closing campus outbuildings by bringing those classes into the main building, and restructuring alternative education opportunities, according to school administrators.
The ANeSU’s budget information flyer also indicated the Mount Abe spending plan will meet “the needs of all students,” respond to community suggestions raised during public meetings, “minimize” staff cuts, maintain “financial sustainability,” and provide a “secure and welcoming entrance.”
At the same time that votes were being cast on the Mount Abe budget, Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters were going to their polling places to field — also for a third time — a Vergennes Union High School budget for 2015-2016. The budget proposal passed by an 814 to 645 margin (see related story, Page 1A).
Voter approval of the 2015-2016 Mount Abe and VUHS budgets on Tuesday leaves just one Addison County school spending plan undecided. Bristol voters on Tuesday, June 16, will cast ballots on a proposed Bristol Elementary School spending plan of $4,918,334 (see related story). It will be the third referendum on the BES budget.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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