ConVal budget passes in recount

  • ConVal school bus in snow Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/19/2021 12:16:38 PM

The ConVal School District budget passed via recount Thursday night after originally failing at the polls last week by four votes. The 2021 operating budget is $52,583,177. The default budget was $51,065,984, or $1,517,193 less. Although the entirety of the budget passed, School Board members unanimously voted to not spend $780,000 to start a remote K-8 school at a meeting Friday night. The remote school was a controversial item, according to some Board members, who believed it was a major factor in the close vote.

The recount

The final recount totaled 1,636 Yes votes to 1,629 No, or seven more votes in favor, whereas the original count was 1,625 No to 1,621 Yes. 

Volunteer counters from throughout the school district’s nine towns performed the recount in the ConVal gymnasium Thursday evening, overseen by Moderator Bob Edwards. The School Board did not request the recount, School Board Chair Tim Theberge reminded the public during the Friday night meeting, nor did School Board members count ballots. Sealed boxes were opened in full view and every ballot was projected onto a screen so observers, including members of the public, could contest any ballot – there were no such situations, he said.

Of the nine ConVal towns, five – Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Hancock, and Temple – had the same results as Election Day following the recount.

Dublin had one fewer Yes vote and one more No vote; Greenfield had 10 more Yes votes and one more No vote; Peterborough had two more No votes and Sharon had six more Yes votes. The School Board voted to have the School District Clerk discuss the discrepancies with town clerks.

“I know that they’re taking this to heart and internally are discussing changes they’ll be making,” Greenfield School Board member Katherine Heck said of town clerks, “But a discussion would set voters at ease further,” she said.

Budget talks

“The budget was voted in by one tenth of one percent. Some will say the margin doesn’t matter, but it does,” Dublin School Board member Alan Edelkind said. “We need to show that we are listening.”

The Board ultimately decided to bring back “Tier 0” cuts they had previously made in anticipation of a default budget, restoring all those items to the budget, and opted to not spend $780,000 on establishing a remote school for K-8 students. They did not decide what to do with that money instead, leaving that, as well as a discussion on staff attrition, for a later meeting. A motion by Edelkind to keep all Tier 0 and Tier 1 cuts in place went unseconded. 

Theberge categorized community member comments about the proposed remote K-8 school as “fundamentally incorrect” insofar as they suggested the Board had been anything less than transparent about including that project in the budget, citing its discussion over multiple public School Board and Budget and Property Committee meetings. Several other Board members clarified that suspending that budget item would not affect the VLACS program, or the school’s obligation to provide remote learning due to COVID-19 risks.

Several Board members advocated for returning the $780,000 to taxpayers, although they acknowledged that may not reflect in tax bills until December 2022.

The Board intended to revisit some of their budget discussion at their April 6 meeting.


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