Court Rejects Roxbury's Request to Block School Budget Vote | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Court Rejects Roxbury's Request to Block School Budget Vote


Published April 24, 2024 at 6:38 p.m.

Residents outside Roxbury Village School in March - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Residents outside Roxbury Village School in March
A Washington County judge has rejected the Town of Roxbury's request to stop an April 30 vote on a revised school budget that, if passed, would lead the town's elementary school to close.

The town had also asked the court to nullify the results of the first budget vote, which failed on Town Meeting Day. Roxbury officials argued that Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools had failed to hold a state-mandated informational budget meeting 10 days before ballots were cast.

The revised budget proposes closing the Roxbury Village School and busing its students to an elementary school many miles away in Montpelier. In the suit, town officials said they wanted residents to vote instead on the original $32 million budget, given the issues with the informational meeting. That proposal contained money for Roxbury's school.

But Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi ruled against the town after an expedited hearing on Tuesday, saying the suit was "
moot, untimely, and fails to meet the exceedingly exacting standards required to obtain such relief."
The suit was filed on April 16, well after the 15-day limit to contest an election, Tomasi wrote. Further, he noted, the school board recently validated the results of the March 5 election.

Asking a judge to overturn the vote is something "t
he Vermont Supreme Court has made clear ... is a most extraordinary remedy," Tomasi wrote.

The school district is one of dozens around the state that is making hard choices about its spending after voters rejected a budget proposal. Many Vermonters are expected to see double-digit property tax hikes this year because of increases in education spending and major changes to how that money is collected.

In his 15-page ruling, Tomasi acknowledged the "real harms" related to the potential closure of the Roxbury Village School.

"Without doubt, the School is an important part of the community and, if the budget passes in its present form, the loss to the Roxbury community will be immense," he wrote. "Similarly, busing children a fair distance each day to Montpelier is no small thing to the children and their families."
In a written statement, Roxbury Selectboard chair Jon Guiffre said the community was "disappointed" in the ruling and would "determine our next steps in the coming days.

"At the very least, we will be demanding that the school district not close their budget gap on the backs of the most rural kids," he said.

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