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Public Post is a community reporting initiative using digital tools to report on cities and towns across Vermont.Public Post is the only resource that lets you browse and search documents across dozens of Vermont municipal websites in one place.Follow reporter Amy Kolb Noyes and #PublicPost on Twitter and read news from the Post below.

Walden School Budget Vote #5

Town of Walden School Board

Voters in Walden go back to the polls this week for a fifth attempt to pass a school budget for the current fiscal year. Balloting on the $2,618,278 budget will be held throughout the day on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

On Town Meeting Day in March, voters narrowly passed a $2,748,117 budget. However, a petition to revote was submitted and Walden voters have been back to the polls three times without passing a budget. According to School Director Ray Lewis, the school board lowered the budget amount for the first revote, but held the line on the next two votes, hoping to get more parents of school children to the polls.

The budget being considered this week has further cuts, but retains an added classroom teacher that will allow the school to split a multi-aged classroom of fifth and sixth graders. Lewis explained the school board feels the current mixed classroom model isn't working for the town's 29 fifth and sixth graders. He pointed to a recent New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) writing assessment, saying none of the students in the class passed the test.

Walden voters who haven't supported the proposed school budget say the resulting tax increase would be unacceptable.

Lewis says some of the factors leading to a higher tax rate are beyond the school board's control including a jump in the town's Common Level of Appraisal (CLA), which affects the state education funding formula, and substantial increases in special education expenses. On top of that, Lewis said the school board has been keeping the budget low for several years due to the poor economy and, he said, "it got to a breaking point this year."

"It's kind of a perfect storm for us that caused a higher tax rate than we've seen before," said Lewis.

Meanwhile Lewis said the school board is trying to engage voters through the budget building process, which has already begun for the next fiscal year. Among the board's outreach efforts is a new Walden School Board blog.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
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