Otter Valley budget rejected


BRANDON—In what’s shaping up to be a season of “nay” in the area, the proposed OVUU FY25 school budget was rejected by district voters on Tuesday, with 891 votes (40%) in favor and 1325 votes (60%) against.

Though Governor Scott had recently signed a law (H.850) allowing school boards to re-examine their budgets and postpone their votes, the OVUU Board believed its budget was already tight and decided to present it as planned.  Voters, however, made clear to the OVUU Board and the RNESU district that they were unhappy with the budget’s size and its implications for the district’s property taxes.

The Board will now have to review and revise its budget and present a new proposal to the district’s voters.

Natalie Steen of Brandon and Fernanda Canales of Goshen will both retain their seats.  Both ran unopposed.

Several board seats remain open, with no write-in candidates earning enough votes to clinch a spot.

RNESU Superintendent Kristin Hubert said in an email to The Reporter:

“Administration will begin meeting as soon as possible and will work with our boards to both create a timeline for the next budget vote and also craft a new budget to put before the voters. Although it would be premature to discuss where the cuts may come from without meeting with my team and the board, as we did not ‘pad’ or inflate our budget, the reductions are likely to impact people and/or programs and will have an effect on all of our schools. I certainly respect the message we heard from our voters by receiving a no vote and will go back to the drawing board in our planning, but admit that my team is disheartened and also frustrated by the timing and messaging of VT’s Act 127 and H.850, which undoubtedly created mixed messaging across the state and put schools and leaders in very challenging situations.”

Act 127 altered the formula by which school districts in Vermont calculate their per-pupil spending by taking into account the types of services each district’s students require, with more “weight” given to students who require additional supports.  The idea was to ensure that each district had the resources it needed for its specific student population.  

The Act also placed a 5% cap on property-tax increases if districts kept their budget increases under 10%.  However, the state legislature came to believe that this provision encouraged districts to inflate their budgets without fear of increased taxpayer liabilities.  

H.850, which Governor Scott signed into law in February, removed the 5% cap and allowed school boards to reopen their budgets and make cuts, all in the hope that without the protection of the cap, boards would be more sensitive to the financial impact of their budgets.  

The OVUU Board opted not to revisit its budget in light of H.850, believing it already to be delivering the minimum needed for the district.  

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