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Otter Valley budget passes

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June 14, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

BRANDON — By 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Otter Valley Union High School poll workers had counted enough ballots to know that the school’s twice-defeated 2007-2008 spending plan had finally passed. But earlier that evening, it looked as if the vote would have to be rescheduled for the fourth time. Pittsford residents had filled out the wrong ballots.

The final tally to approve the $10,766,837 budget was 1,028-830, including the Pittsford ballots.

About half an hour into counting, poll workers noticed that the Pittsford ballots were marked May 8, the day of the last vote, when the $10,884,962 spending plan was defeated, 587-455. Somehow, Pittsford residents had used the ballots left over from last month’s vote.

After about an hour of phone tag, the frantic poll workers, including Assistant Principal Nancy Robinson, tracked down Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections in the Vermont secretary of state’s office. DeWolfe said the ballots could still be used, since the vote had been properly warned with the correct amount, it was a yes or no vote and the correct amount was, in fact, higher than the amount printed on the wrong ballots.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Robinson said. “We were so looking forward to (Tuesday) night. We hoped and believed it was going to pass.”

According to OV school board Chair Jim Rademacher, a Pittsford resident, it was easy to miss the date and final amount on the ballots.

“Nobody, including myself, ever read the ballot,” he said. “We just walked in and already knew whether we were going to vote yes or no, and voted.”

Despite the hour of anxiety, the board and administration were relieved at the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. About twice as many voters cast ballots this time than the last, something the board attributed to the teachers’ and parents’ groups that made phone calls and sent letters to district residents last week, urging them to vote.  

The original $10,991,527 spending proposal was defeated on Town Meeting Day, 1,250-911.

Rademacher stressed that Tuesday’s favorable vote was not exactly a victory, considering the major cuts, including five personnel, reflected in the just-approved budget.

“I’m not so much pleased that we have a wonderful budget, but that the alternative, a failed budget, would have been a serious blow,” he said. 

“Given the budget that we have, the board and administration and teachers will go about meeting the challenges of giving the students the best education we can,” he added. “Hopefully we’ll make it something we can be proud of.”

Still, more than 830 people showed up on Tuesday to reject the proposed spending plan for a third time — a fact, Rademacher noted, was important not to brush off. 

“We had a large number of people who voted no,” Rademacher said. “So we hope that as we move forward, we can show to those people that Otter Valley is worthy of their support the next time around.”

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