Vernon town, school budget votes set
VERNON -- The debate over Vernon's town and school budgets has been pushed into May.
The Selectboard on Monday rescheduled a special Town Meeting for 6 p.m. May 5 at the elementary school's gym. That session will be for reconsideration of the town's fiscal year 2015 budget and to debate the possible restoration of funding for town auditors.
Also on Monday, Vernon School Board set May 13 for an Australian Ballot revote on the elementary's budget, which was rejected March 4. School board members since have cut nearly $70,000 from the fiscal 2015 spending plan.
They're hoping that's enough to gain approval for a school budget that failed by just eight votes.
"Any cuts that we make beyond what we've already done will be out of the instructional portion of the budget," school board Chairman Mike Hebert said.
Both Vernon budgets have been controversial. With the pending closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, the Selectboard sliced more than $400,000 from the town's proposed fiscal 2015 budget.
Town Meeting voters went further, amending the budget to cut $262,095 from Vernon Police Department. That essentially shuts the department as of July 1, with just $40,000 remaining in the police budget for the Selectboard to seek a supplemental law-enforcement contract with an outside entity.
The amendment came on a 118-112 vote, and Vernon police supporters since have rallied to submit a petition for reconsideration of the town's budget. That discussion can include the police cuts as well as any other town spending issue.
"Everything is on the table," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said.
On Tuesday, O'Donnell confirmed that there also has been a petition submitted for reconsideration of Article 10 from Town Meeting. That article had sought to undo the Selectboard's move to drastically reduce elected auditors' salaries in favor of hiring an outside firm to conduct a town audit.
Both the budget and auditors' articles -- as well as anything else that might be reconsidered from Town Meeting -- can be handled at the May 5 special Town Meeting, O'Donnell said.
"We are going to wait to warn the (May 5) meeting on April 4 at 5 p.m., because that's the deadline for all the (reconsideration) petitions to be in," she said.
On the school side, board members initially had discussed sending the same fiscal 2015 budget back to voters for reconsideration. But on Monday night, the board approved a $4.35 million proposed budget that includes $69,723 in cuts.
Those cuts were carefully crafted -- in part by Windham Southeast Supervisory Union administrators -- to not impact Vernon's classroom instruction.
In the biggest budgetary change, the board elected to not make a new, $44,500 investment in the school's capital fund, deciding instead to make planned computer purchases from existing savings in that fund.
There were a variety of other, smaller reductions, including a decision made last week to cut $1,000 from each school board member's salary -- a total savings of $5,000.
Additional cuts came from areas including the school's electricity budget; the SCAMP program for incoming students; retirement funding; travel and conference spending; course reimbursement; Fiber Connect fees; the One Percent Fund allocation; and school board dues and fees.
"Our target was to cut as much as we could without having a direct impact on the students," Hebert said.
The result is a proposed budget in which direct elementary spending is down 1.11 percent from the current year. Overall, the fiscal 2015 spending plan is up 1.35 percent from the district's current budget.
The May 13 Australian Ballot revote on the school budget will be held in the basement of the town office. On May 12 at the school, there will be a public budget forum at 6 p.m.
The school board also will hold another budget forum prior to the vote. That has not yet been scheduled.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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