Voters pass school budgets, elect board members

Incumbent Francis Kinney beats challenger Jeff Leake for sole contested seat

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Voters elected primarily incumbents in mainly uncontested school district board races and approved multi-million dollar district budgets at town meeting on Tuesday.

In the only contest for a school board seat, incumbent Francis Kinney defeated challenger Jeff Leake for the board member from Shaftsbury on the Mount Anthony Union School District Board. The vote was 1,944 to 1,906.

Leake has been a member of the now-defunct Shaftsbury School District Board and the Act 46 committee.

Voters also elected David Fredrickson, Jackie Kelly and Carrie Bond to the MAU board. Fredrickson and Bond are incumbents.

Incumbent Joseph Hall was also re-elected to the district moderator position.

Voters also approved a $25.24 million budget for the MAU district by a vote of 2,380 to 562.

The largest budget increases are $477,411 for tuition, $367,009 for salaries and $229,436 for benefits.

Contracted services, equipment and debt service budget categories are expected to decrease by $49,000, $79,145 and $29,340, respectively.

Southwest Vermont Union Elementary School District voters also approved a $23.52 million fiscal 2021 budget by a vote of 2,700 to 2,177, and elected Chaila Sekora, Tammy Sohl and Dick Franz to the school district's board.

All three ran unopposed. Sekora and Frantz are incumbents.

Sohl was elected to former board member Angie Rawling's position as a board member from Pownal. Rawling chose not to seek re-election.

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Rawling was elected to a one-year seat on the Pownal Select Board on Tuesday.

The SVUESD budget, which had received a number of cuts, represents a 1.33 percent increase over fiscal 2020, with the biggest changes in operations, with a decrease of $249,281, and in salaries, with an increase of $236,455.

The SVUESD budget results in an increase to the estimated homestead tax rate in Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford. The estimated increase would be 8.61 cents in Bennington, 11.22 cents in Pownal, 7.37 cents in Shaftsbury and 12.70 cents in Woodford per $100 of property value, according to a final budget document.

Voters also approved a $3.96 million budget for the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District on Tuesday by a vote of 6,223 to 2,174 and elected John MacDonald, Todd Siclari and Dane Whitman to the district board.

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Siclari and MacDonald were the only two candidates on the ballot for three available positions, with Whitman as a write-in with 115 votes. MacDonald is an incumbent.

The SVRTSD district budget represents an increase of 8.38 percent over last fiscal year.

Key factors in the budget increase include a proposed increase in health insurance of 12.9 percent statewide, along with an $145,700 commitment to a graphic arts and design program, a workforce education and training coordinator position added in fiscal 2019 and $18,200 for computers, according to a presentation on the budget proposal posted on the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center website.

The regional technical school district serves Arlington, Bennington, Dorset, Glastenbury, North Bennington, Manchester, Pownal, Readsboro, Sandgate, Searsburg, Shaftsbury, Sunderland and Woodford.

North Bennington Graded School District voters also approved a budget of $2.9 million for the district by a vote of 329 to 118 and elected Kiernan McNamara and incumbent Ray Mullineaux to the school board for two-year and three-year terms, respectively.

The budget represents an increase of 9.57 percent over fiscal 2020, with the largest increase going to tuition.

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SVSU Budget

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board passed its budget by a margin of 5-1 at a meeting on Jan. 2, after much back-and-forth, during which multiple board members expressed concern over possible effects on taxpayers.

The SVSU budget is the only one in the supervisory union not directly considered by voters.

This $27.7 million fiscal 2021 budget represented an 8.87 percent spending increase over the current budget, with the largest increases over fiscal 2020 coming from benefits, salaries and tuition.

But a meeting later in January, the SVSU board voted 5 to 1 to accept an amended budget with a decrease of just over $96,000.

This brought the SU budget increase down from 8.87 percent to 8.49 percent increase over last year.

The vote was in response to a decision by the SVUESD board to eliminate three out of four new paraeducator positions that had been included in its budget; the cost of those positions had been part of the SVSU budget under salaries and benefits.

Kinney voted no. Cindy Brownell and Ron Higgins were absent.

The SVSU includes the Southwest Vermont Union Elementary, North Bennington and Mount Anthony Union school districts.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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