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Town Meeting: Tunbridge, Chelsea voters narrowly approve First Branch school budget

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/26/2021 3:07:45 PM
Modified: 5/26/2021 9:56:59 PM

CHELSEA — Voters in the First Branch Unified School District narrowly approved the annual budget by Australian ballot on Tuesday. The vote tally was 117-111.

Last year, the district’s two towns, Chelsea and Tunbridge, struggled to come up with an acceptable budget, finally approving spending for the merged school district last October, well into the school year, after defeating it twice.

The $6.85 million budget for the coming year is about $40,000 lower than the current year’s spending, and the residential education tax rate is due to rise by about 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value in Tunbridge and a bit less than 3 cents per $100 in Chelsea.

The vote count in Tunbridge was 72-39 in favor of the budget, which means Chelsea voted against it by a count of 72-45. Asked about this divide, White River Valley Supervisory Union Superintendent Jamie Kinnarney responded by looking forward.

“I believe that the voters of the First Branch Unified District affirmed the budget for 2021-22, and we can now continue our work in moving the district forward in a united effort to provide a high-quality education that best meets the needs of our students,” he said in a statement. “I will continue to work tirelessly with our administrators, teachers, staff and community members to see that the promises of the merger are realized for the communities of Chelsea and Tunbridge.”

The district is at work on a restructuring plan under which students in grades K-4 would be educated at Tunbridge Central School and grades 5-8 would go to Chelsea Public School. Such an arrangement would save money by reducing staff, and would improve education by grouping students together to provide better opportunities, according to the restructuring plan. The two schools are currently both K-8. The restructuring would take effect in the 2022-23 school year.

Also in voting Tuesday, voters reelected incumbent School Board members Susan Kay, of Chelsea, and Kathy Galluzzo, of Tunbridge, both of whom ran unopposed.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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