Georgia voters deny school budget

School Board members Carl Laroe and Kate Barnes confer. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

School Board members Carl Laroe and Kate Barnes confer. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

The Georgia school budget failed for the first time in a decade, and board member Carl Laroe isn’t surprised.

“I had heard a lot of grumblings about school spending in general,” said Laroe when reached by phone Tuesday night. “My impression is it’s not a local thing. Some people wanted to send a message, and that’s their right.”

The $13 million school budget, voted by Australian ballot, was nixed 400-315.

The town’s $2.5 million budget was approved 110 to 17. One hundred seventy checked in to vote on the floor, but not all cast paper ballots for every town article.

Of the town’s 3,200 registered voters, 25 percent showed up at the polls, a higher turnout than normal, Treasurer Amber Baker said.

Laroe thinks the state is at a tipping point over education spending. Referring to a conversation with Georgia Rep. Carolyn Branagan during a forum the board hosted Monday night [see ‘Montpelier,’ page 13], he said using state education fund dollars for high school students to dually enroll in Vermont colleges is “a little ridiculous.”

“You’re spending money we don’t have,” he continued. “It’s a good idea, but it’s not the right time.”

The board reorganizes next Tuesday, March 11. Laroe, the most recent board chairman, was re-elected for another three years. He said his colleagues will talk about the failed budget and “cut a course at what we might be looking at, but it won’t be a race to come up with cuts.”

Incumbent Kate Barnes was also re-elected to another term. No one ran for an additional one-year seat, formerly held by Cheryl Letourneau, but two locals mounted small write-in campaigns. Meghan Sweeney earned 67 votes to beat out former member Jen Petrie.

Sweeney announced her campaign on Facebook on Friday. The native Georgian said she has worked closely with Franklin County schools for 11 years with Northwestern Counseling and Support Services.

“I am able to see all sides of any situation, and I will do my absolute best to represent this community and its children to the best of my abilities if elected,” she wrote.

Sweeney attended Town Meeting with her 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

“Now I have more of a vested interest with what happens with my money, with everything in the school system, so I want to be part of it,” she said.

Sweeney’s father, longtime Selectman Ric Nye, was re-elected to a three-year term on the selectboard with 46 percent of the vote, despite contention from two others with name recognition, former School Board member and town staffer Matt Crepeau and Planning Commissioner Suzanna Brown. Tara Wright also kept her seat for another year.

Elected with 565 votes, newcomer Matt Crawford will join the selectboard with a one-year term vacated by Brian Dunsmore.

George Bilodeau was re-elected to the Planning Commission, but there’s another vacant term. Baker said the board will appoint someone; to float your name, call Town Planner Mike Ferrone at 524-9794.

Twenty-year-old college student Christopher Farnsworth will serve another term on the Georgia Public Library Board of Trustees, joined by several new faces. James Patrick Allen, Jessica Denton and Daniel Walter were all elected.

See more photos from Georgia’s Town Meeting here:

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  • Ricky Ray

    Laroe states,……his colleagues will talk about the failed budget……., but it won’t be a race to come up with cuts.” You could start with the IPADS! Get real. Computer labs in school, absolutely. But Ipads. Sorry, they’re a luxury item that many of us don’t own. Did the school budget include wireless routers for the kids at home who may not have that technology?