Charlotte voters narrowly pass budget on second try

Charlotte Central School (CCS) Board member Clyde Baldwin prepared to vote on the school budget in the multipurpose room at CCS on April 13.
Charlotte Central School (CCS) Board member Clyde Baldwin prepared to vote on the school budget in the multipurpose room at CCS on April 13.

UPDATE: The Citizen was notified on Thursday, April 16 that a Charlotte resident had requested a recount of the Charlotte Central School budget.  As of today, Friday April 17, the recount show the budget passing 472-463.

By Gail Callahan

After months of debate and community input, Charlotte voters passed a school budget of $7,570,996 by an 11-vote margin, 473-462 on Monday, April 13.

“We’re very pleased the budget passed,” said Charlotte Central School (CCS) School Vice Chairman Erik Beal. “We’re looking forward to having a very successful school year next year.”

The original spending plan proposal of $7,595,996 was rejected 595-548 on Town Meeting Day. The board set the new budget amount during its March 17 meeting, trimming $25,000 from the fiscal plan. The reduction was made after some community members voiced strong opposition to the hiring of two, full-time administrators. With a recommendation from Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pinckney supporting a two-tier administrator model, four of the five CCS board members endorsed the proposal for two administrators at the school, with CCS board Commissioner Clyde Baldwin dissenting. Barbara-Anne Komons-Montroll was hired last month as lead principal with a salary of $110,000, starting July 1.

The lead principal at CCS will work a 220-day contract, while a .08 instructional leader is on tap to be on the job for 210 days.

With CCS’s financial course set for the upcoming fiscal year, Charlotte resident Jason Bushey expressed relief that a fiscally-responsible budget passed, and he called on community members to join together to move past the misinformation that divided residents in the weeks leading up to the re-vote. “Education is the foundation of our community,” he said. “That’s why we have such a great school system. I think the close vote demonstrates the need for community members to have healthy discussions on how to fund education.”

Tammy Hall, an outspoken critic of the CCS board, is leaning toward asking for a re-count of the ballots. Citing the 11-vote margin of victory, Hall said she feels the manner in which cuts to the budget were handled lacked credibility. “The reduction of $25,000 was insulting to the community.”

According to the Charlotte Town Clerk’s office, a resident who requests a recount must submit the petition within 10 days of the election in writing to the Town Clerk’s office. Once the Town Clerk receives the document, she must perform the recount within two to five days of receipt of the paper. Ballot clerks would also be paid to perform the request.

Hall noted that signs urging voters to support the budget were very visible around Charlotte, but she noted that she and her husband witnessed a “Vote No” sign’s removal from a resident’s property by someone who doesn’t live there. “It’s a really close number, and the budget has issues that aren’t going to be addressed unless we happen to really look at the budget.”

Hall indicated she and her husband spent “a significant” amount of time, informing other residents about the budget, but she said she has “lost faith in community” after witnessing the destruction of signs, advocating for a no vote on the spending plan. The new FY 2015-16 budget is expected to impact the residential tax rate of $1.0113 per $100 of assessed property value, for Charlotte School District’s portion of the tax bill.

Charlotte Town Clerk Mary Mead said 29 percent of the town’s registered voters cast ballots in the special election, including 200 absentee votes. Cost for the special election “ran well under $500,” with the school district paying for printing costs, according to the Town Clerk’s office. Ballot counting ran about 45 minutes at the school. Results of the April 13 budget re-vote were certified later in the evening, Mead said.