Education News

Brandon-area towns say no to OV spending

BRANDON — In what’s shaping up to be a season of “nay” in the area, the proposed FY25 budget for the Otter Valley Unified Union School District (OVUUSD) was rejected by district voters on Tuesday, with 891 votes (40%) in favor and 1,325 votes (60%) against.

The district had proposed spending $27,247,823, which represented an increase of $3,073,428, or 12.71%, over last year. The OVUUSD educates kids in Brandon, Leicester, Whiting, Goshen, Sudbury and Pittsford, and runs Otter Valley Union High School.

Though Gov. Phil Scott had recently signed a law (H.850) allowing school boards to re-examine their budgets and postpone their votes, the OVUUSD board decided to present its already-controversial budget as planned. But voters made clear to the board and the broader Rutland Northeast school district that they were unhappy with the budget’s size and its implications for property taxes.

In January, the district estimated that this level of spending would drive up education property taxes in the six towns between 17% and 28%.

The board must now review and revise its budget and present a new proposal to the district’s voters. Or it could leave it as is and try to convince voters to accept it on a second try, though that’s unlikely.

The task is made more difficult because OVUUSD had seven seats open on its board Tuesday, but five seats remain unfilled because no one ran for them. 

RNESU Superintendent Kristin Hubert told The Reporter that the first order of business is to create a timeline for the next budget vote and also craft a new budget to put before the voters. Ultimately, she said some constituents will be hurt by a smaller spending plan.

“Although it would be premature to discuss where the cuts may come from without meeting with my team and the board, as we did not ‘pad’ or inflate our budget, the reductions are likely to impact people and/or programs and will have an effect on all of our schools,” Hubert said in an email. 

“I certainly respect the message we heard from our voters by receiving a no vote, and will go back to the drawing board in our planning, but admit that my team is disheartened and also frustrated by the timing and messaging of Vermont’s Act 127 and H.850, which undoubtedly created mixed messaging across the state and put schools and leaders in very challenging situations.”

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