Bennington school budget defeated 1,095-915
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | March 06,2013
BENNINGTON — Both the Bennington School District and the Mount Anthony School District budgets were defeated in Bennington on Tuesday, although the Mount Anthony budget was carried to victory because of the results of its four other member towns.
The Bennington School District budget, which is only voted on by Bennington residents, was defeated in a 1,095-915 vote. About 55 percent of the voters voted against the budget.
Cassandra Barbeau, assistant town clerk in Bennington since 1995, said she couldn’t remember another school budget being defeated during her time working for the town.
The Mount Anthony budget, which also goes before voters in North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford, lost only in Bennington by a vote of 1,066-911.
However, with the other towns except Woodford reporting, the Mount Anthony budget was ahead 1,822-1,645. Woodford is not expected to have enough votes to change the result.
The Mount Anthony Union School proposed budget of $25,332,396 represents an increase of $1,430,163, or 6 percent, more than the current budget of $23,902,232.
George Sleeman, the vice chairman of the Bennington School Board, said he thought the budget was likely defeated because of the percentage of increase. He said he didn’t think it was any one item in the budget but the overall total increase which voters rejected.
The proposed budget was $13,518,802, which was an increase of $2,158,689, or 19 percent, over this year’s budget of $11,360,113. Sleeman said the Bennington School Board has a meeting tonight at Molly Stark Elementary School. During that meeting, Sleeman said he expects the board to take a hard look at the budget.
At a presentation last week to the Bennington Select Board, Richard Pembroke, the chief financial officer of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, said that much of the increase for the Bennington School District was due to increases in its assessment by the supervisory union. The assessment represents the percentage of the supervisory union’s costs for which Bennington is responsible.
The increase in that assessment, in turn, is caused by the increase in need and cost for special education.
Sleeman said he thought the Bennington School Board, therefore, would probably start with a conversation with the officials at the supervisory union to see if the assessment could be reduced.
“(Tonight) we will reorganize and just as soon as that reorganization is done, the first item will be that we’ll roll up our sleeves and we will look at that budget from A to Z and we’ll have to certainly make some adjustments in that budget. We’re going to have to look at every item that’s in there and take it line item by line item,” he said.
Sleeman said he hoped some adjustments could be made by the supervisory union so the board won’t have to cut too deeply into their own budget.
Bennington School Board Chairman Kenneth Swierad could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Tonight’s Bennington School Board meeting starts at 7 p.m.