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Residents Pass $7.17 Million Oxbow Budget

Spending Plan Includes Adding Science Teacher Cut Last Year

Bradford, Vt. — Residents of Bradford and Newbury approved the $7.17 million budget for Oxbow Union High School by a wide margin on Tuesday night.

The result of day-long Australian balloting in the two towns — 334 in favor of the spending package, 190 against — was announced a little more than an hour into the high school district’s annual meeting in the school’s auditorium.

The approval comes a year after district voters rejected, by 170-165, a proposed budget of $7.3 million, forcing a re-vote on a smaller budget several weeks later.

“There was a big effort by parents and faculty to get out the vote,” said Dan Smith, one of six members of Union High School District No. 30’s Board of Directors. “It may have had an impact.”

After the school district board cut last year’s bottom line by $94,000, mostly by deciding not to replace one of two science teachers who were retiring, the 2013-2014 budget passed by 294-158.

In budget planning this past winter, the board decided to restore the teaching position — which will allow the science department to offer more elective courses in addition to physics — and to cut spending plans in other areas, such as facilities.

“I think people recognized what happens when a budget is rejected and you have to make decisions like that,” board Chairwoman Kathy Damon said after the meeting. “I think that was kind of a wake-up call.”

The school district reduced the overall bottom line to nearly $30,000 less than the final budget of a year ago, in order to limit the overall increase in the high school portion of property taxes to about 6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in Bradford and about 7 cents in Newbury.

The new rates add up to a bill of a little less than $2,000 for the owners of a house valued at $250,000 in Bradford and about $1,440 in Newbury.

The overall increase in education tax rates, a result of the state formula for taxation based on student enrollment and cost per student, left school officials in the Oxbow district — as with many others around Vermont — worried about another close-call vote, and relieved at Tuesday’s comfortable majority.

“It’s our widest margin in quite a while,” Damon said. “It’s particularly notable because of the tax increases. It’s a testament to the efforts of the parents and the faculty that we got such a ‘yes’ vote.”

Pointing to long battles to upgrade 1960s-era high schools nearby, including Mascoma Regional, Smith warned that the Oxbow district cannot afford to delay improvements to facilities for much longer.

“The time’s coming in the next several years where we’re really going to have to face these issues head on,” Smith said.

In other Australian balloting, Bradford and Newbury residents voted, 381-142, to approve a budget of $2,051,450 for the River Bend Career and Technical Center at Oxbow.

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.