ConVal budget fails by four votes, goes to default

  • Peterborough residents voted on the ConVal School District warrant and school board members on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough residents voted on the ConVal School District warrant and school board members on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough residents voted on the ConVal School District warrant and school board members on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/10/2021 10:53:49 AM

ConVal’s school budget failed by four votes at the polls Tuesday and will revert to the default, pending the possibility of a recount. 

The district’s proposed 2021 operating budget of $52,583,177 failed, 1,625 to 1,621. This puts the budget in a default situation, Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders confirmed in a statement  Wednesday morning. The default budget is  $51,065,984, or $1,517,193 less. ConVal’s budget was last voted down eight years ago, Rizzo Saunders said.

Voters in the District could request a recount, Rizzo Saunders wrote Wednesday morning, but ConVal has determined that the district itself is not obligated to perform one. Ten registered voters would need to request a recount, School Board chair Rich Cahoon announced Wednesday morning. 

All other ConVal articles passed, including the collective bargaining agreement with the teacher’s union, with 59 percent of voters in favor. The proposed budget had included $780,000 to establish a long-term remote learning option for K-8 students,  $425,000 in additional student mental, social, and emotional health supports, and $144,000 to further expand pre-kindergarten offerings through the District’s long-term rollout of a Preschool For All program.

Peterborough’s Janine Lesser was reelected to her School Board seat, beating opponent Rachel Maidment and write-in candidate Greg Kriebel. Voters reelected ConVal moderator Robert L. Edwards over challenger William Bryk. In Greenfield, Katherine Heck defended her School Board seat against challenger Kayla Kokal, and Keira Christian and Elizabeth Swan stepped into the vacant spots in Bennington and Temple, respectively.

ConVal’s nine constituent towns displayed inconsistent support for the budget this year. Hancock residents voted 60 percent in favor of the budget, and a majority voted for it in Antrim, Dublin, Peterborough, and Sharon. Meanwhile only 34 percent of Francestown and Greenfield voters supported the budget, and it failed among Bennington and Temple residents, too.

Although Greenfield usually votes down the school budget, this year’s lack of support pointed to economic strain caused by COVID-19, School Board representative Katherine Heck said. “K-8 remote was a hot topic, but that seemed to be district-wide,” she said, referring to the $780,000 earmarked for establishing a long-term remote learning option. There was a variety of concerns among Greenfield voters, Heck said, and believed that mostly, residents were concerned about being able to pay their tax bills.

“In the future, we need to take these voting results, look at them carefully, and listen to constituents,” she said, to bring forward a budget that the community can support.

Newly reelected Temple Select Board member Ken Caisse also saw Temple’s rejection of the budget as business-as-usual for the town. There was very little conversation for or against the school budget during the town’s budget hearings this year, he said, and that could have been related to the town’s turnover in School Board representatives.


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