Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo Rev. Justin Baker, center, checks in with Beth Kiernan before voting at Christ the King School Tuesday in Rutland. 03/-4/14The city school budget failed Tuesday for the first time since it went to voters in 2009.
The $48,672,312 budget was rejected 1,290-1,192, a margin of 98 votes.
All other major monetary articles passed.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised,” School Board Chairman Peter Mello said Tuesday night. “I don’t think it’s indicative of a lack of confidence in anything the board or administration is doing. I think we approached it in a very prudent way.”
Mello said he believed the vote was most likely a “message to Montpelier” regarding the statewide property tax.
Whatever the reason, the board is left with the task of finding a number voters will approve.
“I’m certain any further cuts we make will require cuts in positions, in jobs, possibly in programs,” he said. “That is something we will have to deliberate and go from here.”
Voters approved the $19.5 million city budget 1,294-1,143, the $5.2 million stormwater separation bond by 1,583-878, the $5.5 million energy efficiency project at the city schools by 1,328-1,133, and the $2.5 million bond for school maintenance projects by 1,342-1,116.
Mello said he was not surprised the bonds succeeded where the school budget failed.
“Traditionally, as long as I’ve been in the business, people have understood the basic need to fix things,” he said.
Mayor Christopher Louras said he still had to figure out how to parcel out the duties of a stormwater monitoring position the aldermen cut from his budget proposal, though he said the budget passing makes the task easier.
The city is required to take on the duties under an agreement with the state over the status of Moon Brook as an impaired waterway.
“It’s still going to be an issue of great discussion over the next couple months of how we’re going to comply with state mandates,” Louras said. “We’ve had some discussions, but nothing’s ready for prime time, for public discussion. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Most of the social service agency appropriations also passed, though voters rejected a $46,140 request from The Bus and $13,500 for the Rutland County Parent Child Center.
City Clerk Henry Heck said that while he did not have the exact total handy late Tuesday night, his count put turnout at around 2,700 out of a checklist that dropped to below 10,000 when the voting rolls were purged following the 2012 general election.
Last year, with a mayoral contest on the ballot, more than 3,600 voters turned out.
Those who voted Tuesday moved quickly between their cars and polling places, frequently commenting on the frigid temperatures.
“It was 8 below when I left my house to come here,” said Rep. Doug Gage, R-Rutland City, who was handing out legislative reports outside the polling place at Calvary Bible Church and said he made it through the day with just one cup of hot chocolate and one cup of tea. “I dressed like I was skiing.”
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