On May 8, 2024

Twice defeated: budgets in Rutland County school districts fail again

Staff report

Last Tuesday, April 30, three of the four school budgets in Rutland County that failed on Town Meeting Day, failed again upon a revote. Voters in Rutland Town School District, Otter Valley Unified Union School District, and Barstow Unified Union School District again voted down school budgets.

The fourth Rutland County district that failed its budget on Town Meeting Day, Slate Valley School District, will hold its third revote May 9 — and attempt to overcome a deficit of 534 votes that failed its original budget.

Vermont schools that don’t have a voter approved budget by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, can borrow up to 87% of the current year’s budget — a move that would likely further negatively impact school programming and offerings.

Rutland Town revote failed by 33 votes

Rutland Town School (RTS) District’s $10.6 million budget failed 692-659 at the revote. While voter turnout was significantly higher with 164 more total votes (578-609), the margin remained close, failing by 33 votes instead of 31. 

The Board credits the decision to mail ballots (paid for by the town) as a likely reason for the increased turnout.

Courtesy Slate Valley Unified Union School District
Chart shows a comparison of area school Districts cost per weighted pupil and how they compare to the state average (green). The Slate Valley district is among the lowest per weighted pupil spending, and hopes to pass its revised budget May 9.

The second-round budget was reduced $156,100 from the district’s initial proposal and included cuts to the seventh-grade trip, the lifetime sports program, furniture costs and a decrease in legal fees — a result of the $4 million infrastructure bond failure on Town Meeting Day.

The RTS Board held a meeting May 6 where it began to discuss the next version of the budget.

Otter Valley revote failed by 381

Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) School District’s roughly $27 million budget failed 638-1,019 on Tuesday — a margin of 381. The original budget failed 891-1,325 — a margin of 434. The board had trimmed about $269,000 from its original budget — a 1-cent reduction to the district’s equalized tax rate from the original budget. But it still was 11.6% increase in spending over fiscal year 2024.

Reductions included of one late-run bus, a Neshobe School dean of students position and the district’s Nordic ski team.

The school board held a meeting May 7 to discuss the next version of the budget.

Barstow revote failed by 60

Barstow’s $6.25 million budget failed 274-214 on Tuesday — a margin of 60, which is a larger margin than the first budget vote on Town Meeting Day, which failed by just 4 votes 375-379.

Approximately $29,000 in cuts made at the RNESU assessment level from the original $6.27 million budget. It still reflected an 11.6% increase over FY 2024.

Several voters turned up at the district’s informational meeting on April 22 to share their concerns about the school budget, noting that they felt overtaxed and that the school board could have done more to contain costs.

Board members stated that further cuts to the budget would likely be in the areas of athletics, busing, after-school activities, and field trips.

The next board meeting is scheduled for May 20 but a special meeting will likely be held prior to that date.

Slate Valley to revote May 9

UPDATED May 10: The Slate Valley Unified USD Budget did not pass. 3rd Vote Results: No: 891 Yes: 798. A margin of 93 votes.

Slate Valley’s roughly $31 million original budget failed 1,004-1,538 — a margin of 534. The original budget was up 10.57% over FY 2024 and reflected an education spending of $11,384.63 per long-term weighted average daily membership (LTWADM).

The second revote was held April 11 and failed 947-544 — a margin of 403.

The new budget proposed for a revote Thursday, May 9, is $30,810,135, 9.81% over FY 2024 with a LTWADM of 11,294.83. $211,500 was cut from the budget since the March vote. Cuts included three full-time instructional assistants, the removal of elementary school late buses and grant money.

The budget covers the five buildings that make up Slate Valley school district: Orwell Village School, Benson Village School, Castleton Elementary School, Fair Haven Graded School and Fair Haven Union Middle High School.

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