Milton voters narrowly defeated their proposed school budget this Town Meeting Day, while approving the town’s measures, preliminary results show.
Voters denied the Milton Town School District’s $32.65 million budget proposal, 805 to 757. The budget showed a 10.96 percent increase over the previous year and would have raised taxes on a $250,000 home by about $64.
“There’s really no reaction; we have to go back at it,” superintendent Amy Rex said. “We only missed it by a few so I’m hopeful that we will be able to get back to the drawing board and put something else together.”
The town’s $7.98 million general fund budget – a 4 percent increase from FY 19 – passed 992 to 552. The budget includes a $5.98 million tax levy, the amount raised by property tax, which represents a 3.9 percent increase from the current year. Under the budget, the tax bill for a $250,000 home will be $1,400, an increase of about $52.
The general fund budget covers salaries for two full-time paramedics at Milton Rescue in addition to $235,000 towards paving. It also invests in area nonprofits and covers $140,800 in negotiated salary increases as well as nearly $195,000 debt payments.
Selectboard chairman Darren Adams was excited to see the budget and articles pass.
“We need to double down our efforts and get businesses to move into Milton,” Adams said, adding the approved infrastructure projects, which include the water main replacement on Lake Road, new pressure sustaining valve on River Street and paving would help make Milton a better place.
Voters also approved a $1 million loan to bolster paving efforts around town. The loan will be repaid over the next five years. The loan interest adds to the overall cost but is essentially the same as waiting to fix roads down the line, finance director Jessica Morris told the Indy in an interview last month.
“We’re very thankful that the voters are supporting what we’re putting forth,” town manager Don Turner said Tuesday night. “Having all of the projects we put forth pass, it just feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, school trustees must confront their second budget failure in the last three years.
In a previous interview with the Indy, board member Emily Hecker touted the budget as “no-frills,” saying it would have addressed student needs while remaining fiscally responsible.
The budget would have provided funding for an early childhood coordinator to combine functions of the Act 166 comprehensive services coordinator, administrative and special education director roles.
Other adds would have included a social and emotional learning coordinator and a restorative practices/hazing harassment and bullying educator to help with the district’s changing behavioral needs.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the school district.
Voters approved a separate school article by a slim margin of 831 to 727, allowing MTSD to obtain a 30-year, $1.3 million bond to be put towards retrofitting the existing district offices and teachers’ resource center into five classrooms and two additional spaces.
The bond will also cover a new district office building slated for the Bradley Street property MTSD purchased with voters’ approval last year. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the bond will add about $7 in taxes over the next two years – an impact that will slightly decrease over the bond’s lifespan.
“It was curious that the bond passed and not the budget,” Rex said. “That took me by surprise.”
Rex added she was excited to see the article pass and said she’s hopeful the trustees can soon put together a budget proposal that will pass muster with Milton voters.
“Had it gone the other way, the bond would have been dead and we would have had to wait until next year to even think about [it],” she said. “With the school budget we can keep working on it; that’s the silver lining.”
District officials believe the new retrofitted space will help meet students’ changing behavioral needs by offering flexibility for deregulation areas.
For the selectboard race, incumbent Chris Taylor clinched two separate seats carrying one-year and three-year terms, besting incumbent Brenda Steady in both races: 915 to 532 for the three-year seat, and 939 to 691 for the one-year seat.
Newcomer Dana Maxfield was also elected, earning the second one-year seat with 773 votes. Both he and Taylor were sworn in on Tuesday, with Taylor accepting the three-year post and declining the shorter term.
“I’m super excited, I’m humbled at the voters of Milton electing me for both seats,” Taylor said.
Chairman Adams said the board will appoint someone until it can hold another election.
Steady previously held the shorter term but threw her name in for the three-year seat in hopes of securing a longer post. She said she plans on running for the seat again.
“I don’t give up easy,” she told the Indy on Tuesday night.
On the school side, trustees Rick Dooley and Rae Couillard will return to the board in a three-year and one-year role, respectively.
Of the town’s 8,721 registered voters, 1,572 cast ballots in a combination of March 5 and early votes. One person registered to vote on Tuesday.
The selectboard looks to hold its reorganization meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 11.