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South Burlington voters reject school budget

(WCAX)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 3:56 PM EDT
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South Burlington voters on Thursday rejected a $1.9 million school budget increase.

64.5% of voters said no, 35.5% said yes.

The controversial revote comes after residents already voted down a pre-pandemic budget as well as a $209 million school bond on Town Meeting Day.

"We do feel like it's a responsible budget that balances the needs of taxpayers, who are understandably concerned about the economic outlook, along with the needs of our students," said Bridget Burkhard, a South Burlington School Board member.

The $1.9 million budget increase is a big change from the $4 million proposal voted down in March but would have still raised taxes by 5.9% to pay for it.

"The cuts that have been made to get to the $1.9 million will make it more challenging administratively to administer the district, but we believe we've preserved the programming and the services that the students will need," Burkhard said.

She says the added dollars will go towards things like covering increased health care costs, accommodating 90 more students expected in the fall, and making necessary repairs to things like leaky roofs in elementary schools.

"I do think the school department has come back with something far more realistic and something that schools really need," said Maurice Mahoney, one of several voters we spoke to Thursday.

"We moved here because the school system in South Burlington is excellent and we think it's important to keep our teachers here and keep them paid well," Added Jamie Caron.

Critics we spoke to largely took issue with another portion of the budget -- teacher pay. "It's a bad time for a lot of people. We're fortunate personally, but I think to suddenly put this tax on people who are really, really hurting is a real problem. I think everyone has to tighten their belt, and especially teachers," said Ted Riehle.

Nearly 2,700 absentee ballots were sent out for the vote, in addition to in-person voters.

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