TOWNSHEND -- For Leland & Gray School Board, the third time was the charm. After two budget rejections, voters in five member towns on Tuesday approved the regional middle and high school's fiscal year 2015 spending plan by a convincing 393-290 margin.
"We're definitely relieved and pleased to have the budget passed," board Chairwoman Emily Long said, while noting that voters still have 30 days to submit a petition for reconsideration of the budget.
"Nothing's totally official until that 30 days is behind us," she said.
The $6.94 million budget was approved by a majority of voters in four of the five towns during Tuesday's Australian Ballot voting. Once again, a majority of those casting ballots in the school's host town, Townshend, rejected the plan:
-- Brookline: 62 yes, 43 no.
-- Jamaica: 67 yes, 16 no.
-- Newfane: 145 yes, 93 no.
-- Townshend: 78 yes, 124 no.
-- Windham: 41 yes, 14 no.
Long noted that the turnout set a new record for a Leland & Gray Australian Ballot vote: The 683 ballots surpassed the previous record, set during balloting on April 2, by 84 votes.
The school's budget initially was rejected 132-122 on Feb. 5. It was the first time in more than a decade that the Leland & Gray budget had failed to win voter approval, and board members prepared to make spending cuts.
But officials quickly received a petition for reconsideration of the same budget, binding the school board to present the same plan for a revote.
The budget again went down on April 2 by just one vote, 300-299.
Less than a week later, board members approved a reduced budget proposal. Their biggest cut was the deletion of two major capital projects - $32,500 for the first phase of a food-service upgrade and $25,000 for an insulation project.
Also nixed was $7,000 that had been earmarked for the first payment on a new drivers' education vehicle. And retirements led to staffing reductions in physical education and cooperative/career studies.
There had been some budget increases -- in counseling and special education, for example -- since the spending plan first was proposed in December, and those had somewhat offset the board's cuts.
In the end, the budget that voters approved was $56,133 lower than the original fiscal 2015 proposal. It represents a 1.9 percent spending increase over the current year.
"I am certain that the reductions had an impact," Long said after ballots had been counted Tuesday night. "People are definitely concerned about spending and their taxes."
Board members, in addition to holding another informational meeting and posting revised budget documents on the school's website, also had sent a budgetary mailer to the district's voters.
"I think that probably did help," Long said.
"We're doing the best we can to get the information out there," she
added. "We've talked about holding meetings in each town ... that may
have been our next step had this not passed."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.