ORANGE — What may be the longest intermission in the 232-year history of town meeting in this rural Vermont community will end Tuesday night when voters are scheduled to gather at Town Hall to take care of a little unfinished business.
Nearly two months — most of March and virtually all of April — have blown by since Town Moderator Adrian Otterman suggested voters “pass over” the single most expensive item they discussed during their evening town meeting on the first Tuesday in March.
It’s not that voters didn’t try to pass a school budget. They did — over, and over, and over again. However, after three excruciatingly close votes — the last one a 37-38 rejection of an amendment to return to the $2,728,875 budget proposal that they’d defeated 35-39 earlier in the evening — Otterman suggested voters move on, regroup and come back and deal with the school budget at a later date.
They’ll get their chance Tuesday night during a single-issue special meeting that is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall and end as soon as voters can agree on how much to spend to operate their town’s K-8 elementary school and to tuition older students to the high schools of their choice.
Barring any adjustments proposed by the School Board, the discussion will likely start where it began and ended March 6 — with the twice-defeated $2,728,875 budget request that calls for spending $8,875, or .33 percent, more than this year’s budget of $2,720,000.
The latter figure was the subject of the only other Town Meeting Day vote on the school budget. A proposal to level-fund the school budget by cutting nearly $9,000 was narrowly defeated 37-39 last month.
The budget initially proposed by the School Board included $15,000 to cover the cost of an existing behavioral support position and reflected a net loss of $17,000 in federal grant funds that are used to finance school-based math and reading specialists. The proposed budget did anticipate a significant savings of $59,695 in high school tuition expenses.
Though special education expenses are actually down slightly, that expense – in excess of $500,000 – is a source of concern for some residents.
Voters, who were nearly evenly divided when it came to school spending on Town Meeting Day, easily rejected a proposal that they adopt future school budgets using the day-long voting system commonly referred to as the Australian ballot. The proposed change was defeated, 17-52.
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