Voting no on budget
I want to thank Montpelier’s school board for standing up for the democratic electoral process. It took seriously its responsibility to the voters who turned out on Town Meeting Day and chose not to pursue an undemocratic path, actively sought by some members of our community, to thwart the people’s will by simply resubmitting the rejected school budget.
The board showed fortitude in proceeding with $158,000 in cuts against a vocal opposition.
But in a $17 million budget, these are token cuts, not the significant reductions needed to make public education sustainable for the long term.
Moreover, the “compromise,” which the chairwoman called “a pretty fair place to end up,” really is not.
There is no equivalency between a meeting, even a large one with scores of speaker-advocates, and a regular vote. Partly, it’s about numbers: 2,341 voters cast ballots on the school budget, giving far greater weight to those results as a public opinion indicator. And partly it’s atmospherics. Voters cast their ballots quietly without political fanfare, protected by statute against polling-place electioneering. How they vote is no one’s business. They need not defend, nor even explain, their views. Speakers at public meetings expose themselves to criticism and disagreement that can intimidate. An active voter may become a passive participant at a public meeting. I ask: Which scenario is more likely accurately to gauge public opinion?
So I find the “compromise” inappropriately lopsided in favor of the few who spoke loudly against the many who silently gave their views at the polls.
To be clear, it is better to pay less rather than more in property taxes. The reduction by a few percentage points will be helpful and encouraging to many in the short term. But we need to do better in the long term.
I will be looking for hopeful signs that next year’s budget process, and its outcome, will be different. Meanwhile, I intend to vote “no” on April 15.
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