Otter Valley budget passes on third attempt


BRANDON—After a tough budget season that saw school budgets shot down across the state, the Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) school budget for FY25 narrowly won the approval of a majority of those who voted in the district on Tuesday, June 11. The final tally was 738 yes (53%) to 667 no (47%). It was the district’s third proposal this season and the approved budget of $26,808,222 represented a 1.6% decrease from the first proposal that was defeated in March and an 11% increase over the budget approved for the current year (FY24).

Starting out with a proposal of $27,247,823, which was rejected by roughly 60% of voters on March 5, the OVUU school board had to find cuts sufficient to win approval from an electorate that was clearly not aligned with the district’s vision.

The second proposal, which was put before voters on April 30, reduced the budget by 1% to $26,979,072. That iteration cut the Dean of Students at Neshobe, the Nordic ski team at OVUHS, a “late run” school bus from the Middle School, and $164,000 from OVUU’s assessment to the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union’s (RNESU) budget. The annual assessment is OVUU’s contribution to the district and covers expenses such as special education, interventionists, and transportation. 

It was not enough. That proposal was rejected nearly 2 to 1, leaving OVUU feeling defeated and somewhat adrift. At OVUU board meetings, board members struggled with a seemingly impossible mandate: to maintain educational quality while cutting spending to a level that voters could accept. This was made all the more difficult in a year when costs for everything seem to have spiked. In Selectboard and school board meetings, community members expressed anger and frustration with budgets that did not seem to consider the financial pressures many are feeling. Online forums like Facebook and Front Porch Forum saw heated debate over budgets that some saw as a necessary expense and others saw as unlivable.

Though there is now a budget in place for the coming school year, it is still not possible to determine how it will affect taxes in the OVUU district because the tax rates have not been set in Montpelier. Gov. Scott recently vetoed the “yield” bill, which sets those rates, and a veto-override session has been set for June 15. After the yield bill has been passed, tax rates can be set and OVUU’s residents will have a clearer sense of their tax burdens for the coming year.

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