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New, Higher School Budget Approved In Burlington

Voters in Burlington passed a new school budget Tuesday by an unofficial margin of 68 votes, just over 1 percent of the 6,450 voters who turned out at the polls.

Unlike most school budget re-votes, in which voters are presented with a budget lower than the one they initially voted down, Burlington’s new school budget represents an increase from the one that failed on Town Meeting Day.

But the three months since have been eventful for the Burlington school district. An audit found that the district had been budgeting based on previous years’ projected numbers, not actual spending. Internal emails also showed that the Internal Revenue Service is seeking a half-million dollars in payments.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead,” said school board chairman Patrick Halladay. “But I think the important thing is that if we had had to go to the default budget, that really would have hurt the programs and the students.”

After the district’s financial problems came to light, voters and public officials alike called for the resignation of Superintendent Jeanne Collins, who ultimately resigned, effective June 30. Her resignation was closely followed by that of Finance Director David Larcombe.

With the leadership on the way out, Mayor Miro Weinberger joined a large group of parents and community volunteers in calling on Burlingtonians to support a new, higher budget that officials said would help the district begin to address the newfound problems in earnest.

The 3259-3191 vote approves a spending plan that represents $1.5 million in cuts from the budget presented on Town Meeting Day, but gives officials resources to help the district out of the financial trouble it’s in.

For some in Burlington, that wasn’t a good enough reason to accept the larger property tax increase that accompanies the budget’s passage.

Ward 3 voter William Murray said he voted no for the budget.

“The major factor was simply economics,” he said. “I have no kids and I see the budgets going up essentially double digits for many years now. With this new boonboggle of the extra money that was not caught many years ago being added on now, something’s gotta be done.”

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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