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Otter Valley High School budget shot down again

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May 10, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

BRANDON — For the second time this spring, voters in Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union towns have rejected a proposed 2007-2008 spending plan for Otter Valley Union High School. The tally in Tuesday’s balloting on a revised budget of $10,884,962  was 587 opposed and 455 in favor.

The original budget proposal, which was $106,565 larger than the one voted on this week, was defeated, 1,250-911, on Town Meeting Day, along with $10 million in renovation and construction bonds.

With informational meetings hosted by the OV school board poorly attended since officials first floated the bond proposals last fall, it was no surprise to some that Tuesday’s revote attracted less than half the turnout of the original vote in March.

“I was quite disappointed in the turnout and quite discouraged by the results,” OVUHS Assistant Principal Nancy Robinson said. “I was really hoping that parents would make the effort to come out to support the vote.”

The revised spending plan reflected a 3.9 percent increase over the current year’s budget of $10,479,219.

According to Robinson, the OV finance committee is planning to meet this week to go over the numbers again.

“They’re hoping to start working on Plan C,” she said.

The committee hopes to get to the bottom of exactly what district voters don’t like. But Robinson admitted this could be a difficult task, considering the lack of attendance at informational meetings. At one point, board members considered conducting a telephone survey, but with less than two months to spare before the fiscal year ends, they decided against it. 

Assuming that voters are simply looking for a smaller price tag, Robinson said, a third spending plan proposal could likely include more personnel cuts, she added. The revised spending plan had cut one paraeducator position from the budget proposal rejected on Town Meeting Day.

“If the voters are looking for another big decrease, really the only way you can accomplish that is through personnel cuts,” she said. “Nickel and diming it with facilities isn’t going to work.”

But Robinson said the thought of resorting to such cuts is “very scary.” By eliminating staff members, “you’re really affecting the students, and the bottom line is that they’re why we’re here,” she said.

According to Robinson, the OV board has until July 1, when the next fiscal year begins, to get a budget passed. Otherwise, the school can borrow up to 87 percent of the current year’s budget for next year while working on a new budget proposal.

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