Bristol Elementary School budget OK’d on third attempt, 285-134

BRISTOL — Bristol voters on Tuesday got a third crack at a proposed 2015-2016 elementary school spending plan, and they passed it this time by a convincing 285-134 tally.
It was the second dose of good news for Bristol-based public schools during the past week. On June 9, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union voters approved the Mount Abraham Union High School budget — also on the third attempt — by an 852 to 597 margin.
Tuesday’s endorsement of a $4,918,334 Bristol Elementary School (BES) budget means all Addison County public schools now have approved spending plans for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Six of the county’s school budgets were subjected to at least one revote following Town Meeting Day on March 3. Those budgets belonged to BES, Ferrisburgh Central School, Starksboro’s Robinson Elementary, Monkton Central School, Mount Abe and Vergennes Union High School.
“I’m grateful to the voters of Bristol for supporting this budget and trusting the school with the details and the ability to make this work for everyone,” BES board Vice Chairwoman Elin Melchior said on Wednesday.
School officials had hoped for a better voter turnout, but are pleased the budget passed by a better than two-to-one margin. In all, 419 out of Bristol’s approximately 2,700 registered voters cast ballots on the spending plan on Tuesday, about a 15.5 percent turnout.
Melchior said she and her colleagues will now turn their attention to planning for next year and working on policy matters, work that has taken a backseat to passing a spending plan.
“It was truly critical that (the budget) pass both in order to meet the July 1 deadline, but also to allow the board, the elementary school and the supervisory union office to focus their energies on other important topics,” she said. “Traditionally, summer is a bit of a vacation for our school board, but not this summer. The board has a renewed focus on policy governance, how we communicate with constituents, our policies and what needs to be added or replaced, and school climate and culture.”
The approved BES spending plan represents a 2.48-percent increase compared to the current BES budget of $4,799,307, which runs through June 30. But the budget reflects a decrease of around $64 in spending per pupil (from the current $14,567 per pupil to $14,503). This is the main reason that approval of the BES results in an $18 reduction in education property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $200,000, according to district figures.
The budget cuts 2.5 full-time-equivalent paraprofessional positions; two full-time teachers, thereby boosting the average class size at BES from the current 16 to 18; and an 0.8 FTE in school-based clinicians.
The spending plan also includes around $51,600 to help subsidize a district math coach, and $98,051 to provide grants of approximately $3,000 to $4,000 to local families for pre-K education for their children — a benefit that will be mandated by the state beginning in 2017. Also reflected are teaching assistants for the three kindergarten classrooms, single (as opposed to combined) classes for kindergarten and grades 1 and 2, and repairs to the BES roof and parking lot.
Local voters defeated an original BES budget proposal of $4.931 million on March 3 by 377-276. School directors trimmed $2,700 and made some other adjustments for a second vote on April 14, but that proposal failed by 224-166.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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