Editorial: How we fared at Tuesday's polls
The cases have been made and the votes have been counted. Now, after months of painful debate, intense scrutiny and collective hand-wringing, the ConVal School District finds itself squarely back at square one.
It wasn’t hard to imagine that this would be the case, since getting two-thirds of voters to agree to either of the measures that would have tackled school consolidation was widely seen as a political impossibility. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still have a growing budget and a shrinking enrollment. And now it’s likely we won’t have much of a debate about our way forward, at least until next winter.
Here’s to hoping the new ConVal School Board members and the returning body can find new ways to reign in the budget, because it appears that budgets are getting harder and harder to pass. In 2011, the budget received 66 percent approval. Last year, approval fell to 56 percent, but that came in a year in which voters were also asked to pass a $4 million bond. This year, with no bond and no teacher contract on the ballot, you would have guessed the budget should have passed easily.
It’s no secret that ConVal is a district divided. Ballot figures once again show where that division is and how far the gap has become. Though the ConVal budget passed, it was widely defeated in both Temple and Greenfield. The board should start there in an effort to address concerns and find solutions. Because, while we may not be any closer to solving consolidation issues, we’re getting far too close to not passing a budget.
Other reflections from Tuesday’s voting:
Rindge budget: Our hearts go out to the many town officials and election workers who will have to recreate the budget process for 2013 in the wake of voters rescinding the 18-month budget. Going for the conversion to the state’s fiscal year was a bold move, but one that ultimately failed to attract general approval. In municipal government, risks are sometimes what puts a town out in front of the curve; overwhelming support for town government, though, is usually the prerequisite.
Lyndeborough police: The police chief issue continues to define town politics in Lyndeborough, and it became a wedge issue that divided the two Select Board candidates. Donnie Sawin wanted to keep the officer-in-charge structure while Fred Douglas has been pushing for the town to return to a traditional police chief. The issue will be in front of voters at Saturday’s Town Meeting. That Douglas won by such a wide margin may be a precursor to Saturday’s vote. The Select Board may have final sway on the issue, but it’s sure starting to look like voters in Lyndeborough want a chief.
Voter turnout: Kudos to Temple, Hancock, Bennington, Antrim and Francestown, each of which saw more than 40 percent of its voters go to the polls on Tuesday. But overall, turnout in the region was about as paltry as Tuesday’s weather. Without the draw of a presidential race, it’s hard for many voters to get excited about town and school district elections. But the cold reality is that the votes that were cast Tuesday will have an immeasurably larger impact on our communities than any presidential race ever can. Compare the voter numbers from Tuesday (Page 11) with what we saw last November, when many towns saw more than 80 percent participation.