By a very slim margin, Burlington residents approved the $67.4 million school budget proposal Tuesday.
Unofficial results show that the Fiscal Year 2015 school budget proposal passed by 68 votes. Nearly 6,500 people came out to the polls.
Three months ago, by a margin of roughly 700 votes, residents rejected a $66.9 million budget proposal. The budget approved Tuesday is half a million dollars higher.
In March, the budget went down by wide margins in the two New North End wards (4 and 7) and by narrower margins in Wards 5 and 6. Total voter turnout was roughly 7,500.
This time, all wards except 4 and 7 voted in favor of the budget.
Possibly helpful in getting the budget passed was the fact that the tax increase is lower than was forecast in March. That's because the legislature set the statewide rate lower than expected.
The Burlington Friends of Education spent roughly $3,500 to encourage residents to vote for it. An opposition group organized by school board member, Scot Shumski, spent about $500 as of May 27.
The school board had to redraft the budget to correct for budgeting errors (which is why it’s higher than before), but members have since made repeated efforts to reassure residents that they are working to straighten out the district's finances. The board is also parting ways with Superintendent Jeanne Collins, who agreed to step down as of June 30, and her finance director, David Larcombe, who announced his resignation shortly after.
Had the budget failed, a default budget $1 million less than the proposed one would have automatically been adopted, in accordance with city charter.
Mayor Miro Weinberger released a statement that read in part: “The extremely close vote ... sends a clear message to the new School Board that they must make good on this opportunity to correct the District’s financial troubles. Further, the close vote should remind all local and state officials that much more work is needed at both levels to address the unsustainable education cost trends Vermont has experienced in recent years.”
Two people were elected to the school board Tuesday.
In an uncontested race, Kathleen Kleman won the Ward 2 seat, which is being vacated by Meredith Woodward King, who is moving.
In Ward 1, Mark Porter beat write-in candidate Karen Newman by 19 votes. He will fill the seat of Keith Pillsbury, who is resigning.
Correction 6/4/14: An earlier version of this story misstated which wards featured which school board races.