GM school budget passes despite large increase Newcomer Wade elected to board along with incumbents Alexander, Fromberger, Lamphere

By Shawn Cunningham
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a Green Mountain Unified School District budget that represents a 9 percent increase over last year, but also includes a number of initiatives geared at giving students the additional educational opportunities promised in the Act 46 consolidation process.

Counting the votes from Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester at the Chester Town Hall on Tuesday. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The $14 million budget funds the GM district made up of Cavendish Town and Chester-Andover elementaries and Green Mountain High, which serves the four towns of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester. (Voters in Andover, Cavendish and Chester also approved the $2.98 million budget for the River Valley Technical Center School District.)

Of the 1,557 voters who took school budget ballots on Tuesday, 957 (or 61.5 percent) voted in favor of the $14 million spending plan. Another 573 voted no and 27 returned blanks.

Joe Fromberger of Andover, the chair of the Board of Directors of the GMUSD called the result “great news.”

“I’m grateful that the voters recognized that we did the best we could to come up with a spending plan that balances the needs of our students with our ability to fund it,” said Fromberger in an interview Tuesday night.

Board and budget priorities after the Finance Committee voted on them.

The board started months earlier than in the past and set out several educational priorities that included early childhood education, second language in the elementary schools and a science/technology/engineering/arts/mathematics — STEAM — program in both the elementary and secondary grades. When budget numbers came in high, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union suggested dropping all of those priorities, but board members resisted and put the priorities back, reducing the scope of a few.

Then, at its Jan. 14 meeting, the GM Finance Committee heard from Chester-Andover Principal Katherine Fogg that her staff was busy working on early literacy and could not take on the early second language component that has been a priority since it was identified as a goal in the Act 46 merger process. The committee decided to drop the $71,500 project in the FY21 budget, but committee member Doug McBride vowed he would be back for that program next year.

Next year begins when?

In a Feb. 26 editorial, The Telegraph called on voters to approve the budget and for the board to begin earlier and dig deeper for ways to get more for the students from the money currently being spent.

On Tuesday night, Fromberger said that he would like the board to begin in April or May constructing a “known budget” of the expenses they know they will have to pay next year. This is a first step, according to Fromberger, because there are many variables that the district cannot budget for until it receives information from the State of Vermont.

Board member Doug McBride of Cavendish, who has been vocal on budget and audit issues went further.

“The board needs to look at the whole budget, not just the increases provided by the SU,” said McBride, “We need to start at zero to see if we can be more fiscally responsible and it needs to start right away.”

New Chester member joins incumbents on GM board

Jeannie Wade won a seat on the GMUSD board on Tuesday

In a squeaker of a race for two  Chester seats on the GMUSD board, newcomer Jeannie Wade outpolled her two opponents with 448 votes to incumbent Rick Alexander’s 446 and Patty Davenport’s 435. Wade and Alexander will serve three-year terms.

In Andover, incumbent Fromberger ran unopposed and received 183 votes, with nine write-ins, 17 blank ballots and two spoiled ones.

In Cavendish, incumbent Kate Lamphere was running unopposed and there was no candidate for the three-year seat vacated by Fred Marin.

At publication time, no numbers or write-ins were available from Cavendish.


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