School Budgets Pass Across Vermont
03/02/11 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel  Download MP3
(Host) Vermont voters have strongly approved local school budgets all across the state.
Only three budgets were defeated on Town Meeting Day - that's the lowest number in decades.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) A number of school officials were nervous as they approached Town Meeting Day.
They knew that overall spending on education actually declined by one percent this year and there had been little vocal opposition to local budgets but they were concerned that some budgets would still be defeated because of the downturn in the economy.
It turns out they didn't need to worry. 246 towns passed their school budgets and just 3 did not. Steve Dale is the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association.
(Dale) "It was a great day for the passage of school budgets and I think it reflects the tremendously hard work of school board members all over the state of Vermont to grapple with extraordinary difficult economic times we're in the midst of."
(Kinzel) The consolidation of some school districts was discussed in a number of communities and five towns in the Addison Northwest district all voted to form a larger district.
Dale says his group supports these consolidation efforts as long as they're done on a voluntary basis.
(Dale) "We're strongly supportive of the local communities having these discussions. We're very opposed to some kind of a consolidation mandate that's going to suddenly create 12 school districts or 40 school districts in the state of Vermont - because it totally ignores local realities and could really undermine the quality of education over the long run."
(Kinzel) Municipal budgets also fared well on Town Meeting. Steve Jeffrey is the executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. He has yet to find a budget that was rejected.
(Jeffrey) "It looks like the select boards for the most part were in touch with and in line with the expectations of their taxpayers. And it looks like we have municipal budgets with which to operate and provide services for the coming year."
(Kinzel) But Jeffrey says it's likely that some towns balanced their budgets by putting off maintenance expenses.
(Jeffrey) "I would expect that one of things that happened was that the capital expenses, the infrastructure projects may have been deferred or delayed another year as those are kind of easier to put off into the future. We will have to deal with those certainly at some point in the future."
(Kinzel) Jeffrey says several communities passed their municipal budgets only after adopting floor amendments to lower spending.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.