Town of Roxbury Sues Over Budget Vote That Could Close Its School | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Town of Roxbury Sues Over Budget Vote That Could Close Its School

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Published April 18, 2024 at 12:08 p.m.


Residents outside Roxbury Village School in March - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Residents outside Roxbury Village School in March
The Town of Roxbury is suing Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools in an attempt to prevent a budget revote on April 30 that could close the Roxbury Village School as a cost-saving measure.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Washington County Superior Court, alleges that the school district failed to hold a state-mandated informational budget meeting 10 days prior to the first budget vote on Town Meeting Day. Instead, the suit alleges, the informational meeting was held online the morning of March 5, once voters had already begun casting ballots.

The suit says the timing of the informational meeting "prevented the voters from having the necessary information to make an informed vote."



Furthermore, it says, the approximately 700 residents of Roxbury "were harmed by the district's failure to properly hold the informational meeting and the new budget proposal, which includes and has led to the closure of the Roxbury school."

"Not everyone has the opportunity or the time ... to follow along for months at a time [with] budget discussions," Roxbury Selectboard chair Jon Guiffre said in an interview on Thursday. "The one stalwart in the whole process is the informational meetings — and that's a chance for the board to ... explain why they think that you should vote for the budget."
Montpelier Roxbury's initial $32 million budget proposal failed on Town Meeting Day — as did dozens of other school budgets. Despite the pleas of Roxbury residents to keep their K-4 elementary school open for at least one more year, the board approved a revised budget on March 20 that would shutter the small school and bus its 42 students to Montpelier's Union Elementary School. That change, along with other modest cuts, would shave an estimated $1.5 million off the budget and bring down property taxes in both Montpelier and Roxbury.

The town's motion for an injunction asks a judge to cancel the April 30 vote on the school district's revised budget. Instead, the suit calls for a revote on the original $32 million school budget, which, if passed, would not require the closure of Roxbury Village School.

Judge Timothy Tomasi has set a hearing on the matter for Tuesday, April 23, at 10 a.m. 
In an affidavit, plaintiff Melissa Rutter, who has a first grader at Roxbury Village School, said she was not aware of, and therefore did not attend, the informational meeting about the budget on March 5. Rutter said she is concerned about her young child riding the bus to Montpelier with high school students and praised the sense of community at Roxbury's elementary school.

In a press release announcing the suit, Guiffre, the selectboard chair, said the closure of the town's school "would not only devastate our community, but it would place the burden of solving the district’s budget crisis on the most rural kids."
"Abruptly closing the school without sufficient input from parents, teachers, and the community is wrong," Giuffre wrote. "We believe that had the school board acted with transparency, voters would have had better information when they went to the polls on Town Meeting Day."

On Thursday, Guiffre said the town's "hope is that our efforts will give everyone a chance to pause and rethink this."

Montpelier Roxbury superintendent Libby Bonesteel said in an email on Thursday that she was not able to comment on the lawsuit, noting that the school district had yet to be served "any official papers."

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