Sharon reduces school budget and sticks with three-member board

Joyce Dion, left, and George Ostler, center, rest their heads in their hands while listening to the board’s response to a question about last year’s budget surplus asked by Alex Bird, top right, during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Following changes to Act 127, the school board moved to amend their proposed budget from the floor, eliminating a $475,000 one-time expenditure. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Joyce Dion, left, and George Ostler, center, rest their heads in their hands while listening to the board’s response to a question about last year’s budget surplus asked by Alex Bird, top right, during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Following changes to Act 127, the school board moved to amend their proposed budget from the floor, eliminating a $475,000 one-time expenditure. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

Vermont State Representative Rebecca Holcombe speaks to voters about the issues the state has faced with Act 127, likening the situation to agreeing to split the bill at a restaurant and saying that tax caps incentivized some towns to “order lobster,” during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. “We’re not done,” Holcombe said of the continuing changes that the state will be making to its school funding formula. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Vermont State Representative Rebecca Holcombe speaks to voters about the issues the state has faced with Act 127, likening the situation to agreeing to split the bill at a restaurant and saying that tax caps incentivized some towns to “order lobster,” during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. “We’re not done,” Holcombe said of the continuing changes that the state will be making to its school funding formula. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Marcy Marceau, left, talks to Town Clerk Catherine Sartor while voting by paper ballot to elect a school board member to a three-year term during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Marceau, nominated by her son Joseph, ran against current board chair Will Davis, who won his reelection 76-12. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Marcy Marceau, left, talks to Town Clerk Catherine Sartor while voting by paper ballot to elect a school board member to a three-year term during the Annual School Meeting at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Marceau, nominated by her son Joseph, ran against current board chair Will Davis, who won his reelection 76-12. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-05-2024 6:31 PM

SHARON — The approximately 90 residents gathered in Sharon Elementary School’s gymnasium Monday night voted to reduce the school budget and rejected a petition to increase the size of the School Board.

Voters also reelected Will Davis to his second three-year term on the School Board.

“The ayes appear to have it. The ayes have it,” Moderator Bob Ferguson said after a unanimous floor vote to cut $475,000 from the school budget. The total budget expenditure approved by voters Monday night was $6.27 million.

The $475,000 had been earmarked for facilities improvements. Then in February, less than a month before Town Meeting Day, the Vermont Legislature abolished a cap on tax increases related to education spending.

The School Board sharpened its pencils and went to work to reduce school spending and lessen the tax burden on homeowners.

With the facilities expenditure removed, the board proposed creating capital and tuition reserves, and funding each of those reserves equally from a $572,436 fiscal year 2024 budget surplus.

Voters approved all the budget changes, which resulted in a total spending increase of $390,000, or nearly 7%, over last year’s school budget. The budget approved Monday night is expected to result in a nearly 4% tax increase over last year, or a 6-cent increase per $100 of property value.

Spirited floor debate preceded voting on a petition to increase the size of the School Board from three to five members.

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A three-person board is tantamount to “taxation without representation” Joseph Marceau said.

But since the whole town votes on the budget, the process is by nature democratic, Bill Sowerwine said.

A larger board would allow members to share the heavy and complex workload and would result in more “diversity of opinion,” resident Alex Bird said.

“Five people generates a conversation,” and would lead to more effective problem-solving, Marcy Marceau said.

But none of the current board members were in favor of a five-person board. A three-person board is efficient and makes it easy to arrange meetings, board clerk Sylvia Moore said. Board member Michael Livingston worried that it would be difficult to find five people in Sharon willing to serve. In paper ballot voting, the expansion article failed, 77-23.

Davis and Marcy Marceau were both nominated for the one open seat on the School Board. Davis, the current board chairman, is in his first term on the board. Marceau has not previously served on the School Board, but has been attending meetings for the past three years, she said. At the request of several residents, voting took place by paper ballots. When the paper ballots were counted, Davis won a second three-year term by a vote of 76-12

On May 7, Sharon voters will vote by Australian ballot on a roughly $10 million school bond for upgrades and renovations that include the replacement of temporary pre-K classrooms and the expansion of the school.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.