March 8, 2007
By MEGAN JAMES
BRANDON — There was nothing extravagant about the Otter Valley School District’s $10,991,527 proposed budget, OV principal Dana Cole-Levesque said. After all, it was 4.8 percent higher than last year’s budget of $10,479,219. But together with the school’s two bond proposals, a combined $10.5 million to pay for the renovation of the 45-year old school building and the construction of a new middle school gymnasium, it was simply too much to ask of district voters.
Not only did Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union voters reject the $8,223,633 renovation bond, 1276-83, and the $2,275,000 gymnasium bond, they flatly refused the school’s spending plan, 1250-911.
“We were stunned and disappointed,” OV board chair Connie Carroll said.
“It was disappointing that the bond didn’t pass,” Associate Principal Nancy Robinson added. “But it was absolutely upsetting that the budget didn’t pass.”
The bond was rejected once before back in November, 2,412-1,705, when it was pitched as a single $10.3 million proposal. Following that defeat, the OV board divided the bond into two separate articles, one for general renovations, and the other for the more contentious piece of the proposal — the middle school gym.
But this failed to entice district voters.
Robinson said that the school had tried to get the community involved on a number of different levels, hosting open houses and holding informational meetings where they explained exactly what needed to be done. But the meetings were poorly attended.
“I don’t think a lot of people truly understood what we wanted to do,” Robinson said. “I think there were some people who just said, ‘enough is enough.’”
The budget is now the first priority for the OV finance committee, who were to meet Wednesday night to discuss revisions.
But the fate of the bond is in the air. Robinson and Carroll noted that in light of a pending moratorium on the state funding of school construction projects, it might be more difficult to resuscitate it this time.
Cole-Levesque stressed the school still has critical maintenance problems to address, regardless of the bond’s future. The school, the original structure of which has never been renovated, is in need of major improvements to its sewer treatment plant, roof, water supplies and fuel tanks.
“We have a lot of emergency repairs that need to be made,” he said. “They’re not going to go away just because (the voters) said no to the bond.”