Town, school budgets win easy approval
March 6, 2008
By Greg Elias
This year's referendum on town and school spending produced a surprisingly affirmative reply.
Williston's municipal and school budgets passed by substantial margins. Voters approved the municipal budget, 2,033-913. The Williston School District's budget was OK'd, 1,783 to 1,145.
The tally for Champlain Valley Union High School's budget was not available by press deadline on Wednesday. Residents from Williston and the other three towns that send students to the school cast ballots, but a malfunctioning vote-counting machine delayed results.
The approvals came a year after voters rejected the Williston school budget and barely passed the municipal budget. Officials reacted to this year's easy wins with excitement and a touch of relief.
"It's great for the school and great for the community," said Walter Nardelli, who as district principal oversees both Williston Central and Allen Brook schools. "We put together what we thought was a good budget and we needed the town to believe in the budget and that's what happened."
Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire thought austere spending and better explanations helped the municipal budget win approval.
"First, the budget increase was lower than the previous year," he said. "Secondly, we made an effort to explain the budget in a different way."
McGuire and other town officials had emphasized what services cost and pointed out that the monthly payment for municipal property taxes was lower than many residents' cable television bills.
Interviews at the polls revealed mixed opinions on municipal and school budgets.
Williston resident Priscilla Dube said she believes her tax dollars are efficiently spent and so had no problem voting for the town and school budgets.
"Certainly, the town needs all the services it provides like police and firefighters," she said.
Others felt spending could be more frugal.
"The school budget always seems a little high to me," said Jeff Carlson, a former Williston police officer. "Taxes are high and teacher salaries are high. They get raises beyond the rate of inflation and beyond what the rest of us get every year."
Though he opposed the Williston school budget, Carlson said he voted for the municipal budget as well as bonds to pay for roof repairs at Williston Central School and to buy school buses.
The $7.6 million municipal budget represented a 5 percent spending hike. The budget included only one new position, although it did include increased hours for two existing employees.
A separate ballot item for a $489,500 bond to pay for a fire engine also won approval, albeit by a relatively close, 1,596-1,375 margin.
The $16.2 million Williston school budget bumped spending by 3.7 percent. New expenditures included an all-day kindergarten program and a longer school day.
Voters were also asked to approve separate ballot items for bonds to fund new school buses ($187,000) and to repair Williston Central School's roof ($480,000). Both easily passed.
The proposed $20.7 million budget for Champlain Valley Union High School equaled a 4.7 percent increase. The budget includes $175,000 for new staff.
Staff writer Tim Simard contributed to this story.
TOWN AND SCHOOL BUDGETS
Municipal budget ($7.6 million)
Yes: 69% No: 31%
Williston School District budget ($16.24 million)
Yes: 61% No: 39%
CVU High School budget ($20.7 million)
Unavailable at press deadline
FIRE ENGINE BOND
Yes: 54% No: 46%
SCHOOL BUS PURCHASE
Yes: 62% No: 38%
Yes: 72% No: 28%