Milton’s retooled school budget passed on Tuesday, and the news was met with enthusiastic cheers and high-fives from district officials at the polling place just after 7 p.m. on June 3.
“We were all keeping our fingers crossed and our hopes high that it would pass, and it did,” Board Vice-Chairman Eric Houghton said.
Of the town’s 7,294 registered voters, 1,710 showed up to polls, a 23 percent turnout, just under Town Meeting’s 26 percent, numbers show. Poll workers saw a steady stream of voters all morning, they said.
The ballot also featured an election for former Chairman Doug Stout’s unexpired three-year seat, which he resigned after being laid off by IBM just before Town Meeting. Cathy Vadnais, who lost to Stout in March, prevailed over Clayton Forgan, 938 to 521.
The district achieved its revamped $25.8 million spending plan by slashing $1 million from fiscal year 2014 line items, still a 4.89 percent increase. The failed Town Meeting budget increased 6.69 percent even with nearly $678,000 in cuts.
To achieve the total $1,036,126 in reductions, the district made operational changes, including in grant assignments and consolidating one bus run, and pared down programs and services like textbooks and technology purchases.
The biggest bang came from personnel, however, amounting to 45 percent of the total cuts. Next school year, middle-schoolers will lose the option to take Spanish and elementary students will lose out on specialized reading services with the loss of an interventionist, Superintendent John Barone said.
“We have to figure out a plan to be able to provide those services,” he said.
School Board Chairwoman Mary Knight was pleased with the turnout, which was higher than last June’s revote when only 14 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“We appreciate people just coming out,” she said. “I tell people your vote is your voice; make your voice heard.”
Though a slim majority came out in favor, almost the same amount didn’t want the budget to pass. Knight, Houghton and Barone were disappointed to see someone defaced the district’s yellow-and-blue signs encouraging people to vote.
The signs were a new push this round, placed in conspicuous locations around town. Knight thinks that additional outreach swayed voters and said the vandalism didn’t warrant a response: “It happened,” she said. “It was petty.”
Houghton admitted board members were on edge before the vote, and they didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t help that only two taxpayers showed to the district’s pre-vote forums: None attended the Saturday, May 30 daytime event, and only two showed on Monday night, to share criticism.
“Regardless of how people voted, we’re just appreciative that people turned out to vote,” Barone said, his phone chirping with congratulatory text messages. “We’re certainly happy with the results.”
Houghton and Knight look forward to discussing other business now that a budget is passed. The board’s next meeting is Monday, June 9 at 6 p.m. in the MES district training room.