Essex Junction resident Bjorn Norstrom places a vote at Essex High School on Tuesday.

Essex voters support school budgets

All three districts pass budgets despite low voter turnout

Elaine Helmstulter checks in a voter at Essex High School on Tuesday.

Top: Essex Junction resident Bjorn Norstrom places his vote at Essex High School on Tuesday. Above: Elaine Helmstulter checks in a voter. Photos by Sabrina Liguori.

It was a clean sweep for Essex’s budget season after voters approved all three proposed school budgets and their accompanying articles Tuesday.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at both Essex Middle School and Essex High School, where town and village voters made their decisions, respectively.

The Essex Junction and Essex Town school districts sported nearly exact turnout rates, with only 5.35 percent of registered voters from each district casting ballots.

This year’s school budgets carried the added significance of being the districts’ last as separate entities. Next year, voters will decide on a unified school budget to serve the communities of Essex Town, Essex Junction and Westford.

Along with the budgets, voters elected five candidates in seven unopposed school board elections. There remain two vacant seats.

Here are the unofficial results:

Essex Junction School Budget

Voters approved a budget of $18.9 million for the Essex Junction School District, 282 to 101.

Of 7,185 registered voters, 385 made it to the polls.

The second ballot item, a capital fund investment of $75,000, passed 287 to 96, increasing overall education spending to 1.8 percent.

Property taxes will remain about the same, however, according to the district’s annual report.

Voters also approved the use of tax revenue to fund $635,600 of Essex Junction Recreation and Parks Department’s $2.2 million budget, passing the article 303 to 79.

Oversight of the recreation department’s budget will change once the unified school district begins operation on July 1, 2017. The Prudential Committee will dissolve, essentially orphaning the department.

A joint municipal study committee is now examining a possible restructuring of the village and town departments.

While recreation’s budget increased by 8.3 percent, the amount raised by taxes is the same as the current year’s, thanks to higher program revenues.

An additional $109,000 for the department’s capital plan — raised by a cent on the tax rate — passed 247 to 113.

Four school board positions were also up for grabs.

Michael Smith was elected with 326 votes to a two-year term on the Prudential Committee, while Brian Donahue was elected to a three-year term on the U#46 board with 323 votes.

Daniel Tifft ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign, accumulating 15 of the necessary 30 votes Essex Junction’s two-year seat on the U#46 board.

The Prudential Committee will now seek letters of interest for both its own seat and that on the U#46 board, as the open seat is for an Essex Junction resident.

Based on those letters of interest, the Prudential Committee would then appoint a new member to each board.

An Essex Junction resident fills out her ballot Tuesday at Essex High School.

An Essex Junction resident fills out her ballot Tuesday at Essex High School. Photo by Sabrina Liguori. 

Essex Town School District

Essex Town School District’s $22.67 million budget passed 360 to 89. The budget represents a 4.3 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Of the town’s 8,429 registered voters, only 451 voters cast ballots.

Voters also approved a $125,000 allocation for the district’s capital reserve fund for the third straight year, 364 to 82, bringing the fund’s overall balance to $251,000.

While this pushed the overall budget increase to 4.9 percent, voters will still see a tax decrease of about $13 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to school board estimates.

In elections, Daniel House was supported by 392 votes for a two-year term, while Rachel Preston was elected to a three-year term, eliciting 400 votes.

Al Bombardier, elected with 375 votes, will occupy the town’s three-year seat on the U#46 board.

Union #46 School District

In addition to their separate school districts, village and town voters both weighed in on the Union #46 School District budget.

Voters approved a $24.6 million budget — a slight decrease from last year — for Essex High School by a count of 649 to 186.

CTE’s $8.5 million budget, down about 1.5 percent, passed 659 to 173.

Voters also authorized $250,000 to be placed in the district’s capital reserve fund, voting 677 to 156 in favor of the article.

Note: Westford voters approved a $5.05 million budget with a 501 to 268 count on Town Meeting Day in March. Martha Heath, the Essex Westford Unified School Board president, was also re-elected to the Westford School Board.

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