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The Milton School Board is promoting a new kind of drive-thru; but instead of ordering fries or a milkshake, Miltonians will be able to vote on the board's second FY21 budget proposal from the safety of their cars.

Should the town reject the $31,682,206 revised budget proposal, the Milton Town School District (MTSD) would be able to operate using 87 percent of last fiscal year's budget—a four million dollar shortfall compared to the revised proposal. According to board members, not passing a budget would have drastic repercussions.

"We need people invested in the system to get out and vote… That's the bottom line, we have to pass a budget on June 9," said school board chair Rick Dooley at a May 14 meeting.

All faculty contracts have been solidified at this point, meaning that should the budget not pass, the district would have to look for other areas to cut.

"We cannot lay off teachers or reduce salaries. Contracts are already set, so what are our options? There are only a few ways to get there if we're cutting four million dollars worth," said Dooley.

Support staff contracts have not been solidified according to MTSD Superintendent Amy Rex because the administration is waiting to see if the budget passes. If it doesn't, that might mean major cuts to support staff. It also might mean no co-curricular programming for grades 7-12, said Rex, including activities like drama, sports and music. "We might not be able to provide transportation/bussing at the beginning of the school year if we don't pass a budget," she added.

Earlier this year, voters rejected the original FY21 MTSD budget proposal by a difference of 386 votes. The original budget clocked in at $32.3 million. Despite cuts to teaching positions, health clerk hours, school field trips, staff training and field maintenance, the budget still amounted to a 3.7 percent increase from the prior year. The increase was largely due to rising health care premiums and statewide bargaining which have changed how MTSD provides health care to its employees.

The revised budget proposal included more cuts to staff, including an elementary school teaching position, a maintenance worker position and an IT tech position; professional services were reduced by about $56,000; and programmatic funds for things like technology, textbooks, curriculum changes, athletic equipment and transportation were also reduced to the tune of $78,346.

While the revised budget vote was set to take place in April, it was later postponed as the fate of in-person voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic was thrown into question.

Now the district is "down to the wire" of the fiscal year, according to Rex.

"We need to remind people that kids still need to be educated and will have even more needs in the fall," said Dooley. "This is a marathon not a sprint; we have a long way ahead of us. We need to be smart fiscally and in how we invest in our kids because they are our future."

On June 8 at 6 p.m., the school board will hold a virtual public hearing accessible via Zoom video chat or call-in. On June 9 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., residents will be able to vote by Australian ballot using a drive-thru polling site behind the Milton Town offices. Residents may also call the Town Clerk's office to request an absentee ballot which should be returned by drop-off or mailed to the Clerk's office by June 9 at 7 p.m.

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