Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Barre Town voter Luis Carcoba is checked in Tuesday morning by ballot clerks Gemma Argenti and John Ziske at Barre’s official polling station at the Barre Auditorium.
BARRE — Officers down!
It wasn’t the only Town Meeting Day casualty in Barre, but Granite City voters shot down a $10.5 million municipal budget request that included funding for two new police officers on Tuesday.
While they were at it they rejected funding for a school-based police officer and the $12.4 million budget for the elementary school where he works.
They were just warming up.
If the $12.3 million budget for Spaulding High School hadn’t passed by an ever-so-sligthly wider margin in neighboring Barre Town, it would have gone down to defeat because it failed handily in Barre. Instead it passed by a whisker, 1,004-1,002, according to combined results from the two communities.
It wasn’t just the big numbers that Barre voters had issues with Tuesday. They rejected requests ranging from $500 to $2,500 for four different organizations on a day when they resoundingly answered a question City Manager Steve Mackenzie had posed in recent weeks.
Mackenzie has suggested budgets — particularly the one proposed for the city — was “defensible,” notwithstanding the fact that it would have triggered a near-10-cent increase in the local tax rate. However, he wondered whether it was “tolerable.”
Voters crushed the municipal budget, 386-752, effectively ending plans to expand the police department that advanced on a 4-3 vote of the City Council.
Mayor Thomas Lauzon, who was on the short end of that vote, said voters clearly agreed with him.
“I think we got our answer,” he said, suggesting he would take proponents of the two new police positions up on their offer to drop the two new officers if the budget was defeated.
“I don’t think we need a long deliberative session,” he said.
Though the vote was lopsided, Lauzon said, he wasn’t discouraged and took heart in the fact that voters approved an $810,000 street reconstruction and capital budget, 694-446.
“I think people do want to support their community,” he said.
They picked their spots on Tuesday, rejecting the $12.4 million budget proposed for Barre City Elementary School, 483-652. As was the case with the municipal spending plan, the school budget, which reflected a 12 percent spending increase, failed in all three of the city’s wards. Though the vote was much closer, the same was true of a $61,000 request to pay for a portion of a school-based police officer. That article, which has always passed easily, failed, 547-589.
School Board Chairman Lucas Herring, who also serves on the City Council, said he was doubly disappointed by the results of Tuesday’s budget votes.
“I was hopeful both budgets would pass,” he said, noting the fact that both spending plans failed was not unprecedented.
“I guess history repeats itself in Barre,” he said.
Herring said the school board’s finance committee planned to meet on Thursday to discuss how to respond to the latest budget defeat. Those conversations, he said, would likely be more complicated than the council’s conversations.
“I think with the municipal budget we just cut the police officers and bring it back,” he said.
The Spaulding budget dodged a bullet on Tuesday. Barre voters rejected the $12.3 million spending plan 483-642. However, voters in Barre Town approved the high school budget, 521-360. The combined results had the budget passing by just two votes, 1,004-1002.
Four other ballot items were rejected in Barre on Tuesday, though the combined savings to taxpayers was just $4,500.
Voters rejected the Family Center of Washington County’s $2,500 request, 554-573, and defeated a $1,000 appropriation for Home Share Now, 473-643. They also turned down a $500 request from Our House of Central Vermont, 560-567, and another $500 request for Good Beginnings of Central Vermont, 513-607.
There were several other close calls, but no other casualties.
The only contested race in Barre was won by a sitting member of the Spaulding School Board. School Director Giuliano Cecchinelli easily defeated Romni Palmer, 659-208, in a race for a two-year seat on the Spaulding board.
Four members of the City Council — Herring, Paul Poirier, Michael Smith, and Charlie Dindo — all won re-election Tuesday, as did three members of the city’s school board — Anita Ristau, Leslie Walz and John Steinman — and Spaulding School Director Veronica Foiadelli McCormick.
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