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Tunbridge, Chelsea voters reject school budget

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2020 10:44:56 PM
Modified: 3/3/2020 3:59:20 PM

CHELSEA — Tunbridge and Chelsea voters on Monday night rejected the First Branch Unified School District’s $7 million school budget proposal for 2020-21 on a 106-46 vote.

The decision came near the end of the district’s annual meeting at Chelsea Public School that lasted more than three hours.

Prior to the budget vote, several residents of each community complained that the proposed merger of students in grades K-8 in the two towns is serving neither students nor taxpayers well.

A few advocated closing either Chelsea Public or Tunbridge Central School and sending all elementary and middle-school students to the remaining school, thereby reducing administrative costs.

District board member Maryann Caron, of Tunbridge, said that the six-member district board is instead “exploring” a plan to send all K-4 students to one town’s school and all older grades to the other.

The proposed operating budget for the district, which is part of the White River Valley Supervisory Union, called for an increase of $324,000 in spending over the current year’s.

School officials said $222,000 of the increase is beyond the district’s control. That includes $70,000 in negotiated increases in employee salaries, $52,000 more for employee health care coverage and $60,000 more for health reimbursement arrangements.

At the start of the meeting, Caron told voters that the district recently decided to wait at least until spring to ask Tunbridge and Chelsea taxpayers for permission to borrow up to $500,000 to upgrade the heating and cooling system at the Tunbridge campus.

Caron told the gathering of 180 voters that they would not see the proposed heating and cooling bond issue on their Australian ballots at the polls on Tuesday. Instead, the district expects to bring the plan to a special meeting in late spring.

In other business from the floor, the gathering elected Tunbridge resident Jackie Guerin (unopposed) and re-elected Chelsea resident Nick Zigelbaum (92-64 over Mark Whitney) to three-year terms on the district school board.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.

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