GM and LMH budgets go down to defeat again

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Voters from four area towns went to the polls yesterday, Tuesday, April 23, and again defeated the 2024-25 budget for the Green Mountain Unified School District. This time the vote was 220 yes to 340 no with two blank ballots. The 120-vote margin was up from the Town Meeting Day difference of 79 votes out of 1,319 cast.

Representatives of the four towns that make up the GM district count votes in Chester on Tuesday evening. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The Ludlow Mount Holly district’s budget also failed, but by a smaller margin – 27 votes – than it did in March. That vote was  245 in favor with 272 opposed. School budgets throughout the state have been extremely controversial this year for several reasons including increased costs and the the unintended consequences of legislation to help poorer districts.

After GM voters, from the towns of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester, rejected a $17.4 million budget in March, the district board trimmed a little more than $430,000 from the budget proposal. While the business office had put forward a $16.9 million budget to get the discussion of budget cutting going, board members were loathe to cut positions, especially given Act 127’s one-year tax rate ‘hold harmless’ on increases for districts that have student populations that are more expensive to educate. Tuesday’s defeat is likely to mean those job cuts may now happen and the benefit that could have come from Act 127 will be less.

“Of course we are disappointed,” Superintendent Lauren Fierman told The Telegraph on Tuesday evening. “We had hoped for a successful re-vote and it’s disappointing to have it fail. Tomorrow, we’ll be starting conversations with the school principals and board members about what our next proposal should be.”

According to Fierman, the district has to put forward budget proposals until one of them passes. It would be ideal if that happens before June 30 — the end of the fiscal year — but if not, the district can draw 87 percent of this year’s budget and continue to put forward proposals until one passes. If that happens after July 1, it will add the logistical complication of starting the year with one budget, then moving to another.

And July 1 is also the day that Fierman turns over the superintendency to Layne Millington, who has been invited to attend the next discussion of the school budget. A “building restructuring” committee meeting has been scheduled for April 30, but it’s likely that will be re-purposed and re-warned as a budget meeting. 


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  1. Wanda Purdy says:

    I agree with Arlene Mutschler. Too much time spent on social issues instead of basic education, the three Rs. Parenting is hard with the economy the way it is, dysfunctional home life and drugs. You cant rely on parents to teach kids right from wrong anymore. Vermont is a hard state to live in with so few people paying taxes to support all the spending that is done in Montpelier and no apparent interest to fix the problem. It is not sustainable. We need lower taxes and voting no is sending a message to Montpelier as well as our school board. With an almost 17 million dollar budget a $430,000 cut is not enough by a long shot. Id lie to see at least a million dollars cut.

  2. Arlene Mutschler says:

    Out of a population of Chester?only 600? Showed up to vote. Why? Now you’re upset? You say we’re fifty percent in the state? ? Apathy? Vermont is only fifty percent in the nation! Yet we pay the highest per student. In the nation!! So more money is not the answer! Better education based? Three Rs? Getting back to more education based instead of social issues. The latter belongs at home. I know, not always taught at home. Not a teachers venue to raise a child. Many questions.

  3. Patty Houser Mahaffey says:

    Disappointed. Education is vital in the upbringing of our children. No one wants higher taxes, but the trade-off is a school system lagging behind other Vermont districts, ranking 51 out of 100 school districts in Vermont based on combined math and reading proficiency.