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The Vernon Elementary School cafeteria was filled last week for the annual Town Meeting. A recount will take place on Thursday to revisit two big decisions decided by a handful of votes — a Selectboard race and the school budget.

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Recount set for Vernon school budget, which lost by four votes

One Selectboard race still in question

VERNON—This week, the town School Board will witness a recount of Annual Town Meeting’s narrow school budget vote.

Voters defeated the $4.4 million budget by only four votes, 245 to 241, on March 3.

School Board chair and state Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, said that four votes is so close, “it’s almost an automatic deal you’re going to ask for a recount.”

Hebert informed the board and members of the public at the Monday School Board meeting that the recount will occur on Thursday, March 12, at the Vernon Town Offices at 1 p.m.

A close Selectboard race between incumbent Sandra Harris and returning board member Michael Courtemanche will also receive a recount. On March 3, Harris lost her three-year seat to Courtemanche in a 242 to 238 vote.

Right after Town Meeting, the School Board notified the Town Clerk, the Secretary of State’s office, the Board of Civil Authority, and the Selectboard that it would seek a recount on the school-budget vote.

The fiscal year 2016 school budget increased 1.5 percent, said Hebert.

Voters defeated last year’s budget as well, he added. That budget, however, passed on a second town-wide vote.

If the proposed budget fails either the recount or two more town-wide votes, then state statute dictates the School Board revert to using 87 percent of the previous year’s budget.

Hebert lamented that many voters get $4.4 million worth of sticker shock when they go to the polls.

They blame the elementary school, he said, but the elementary school only accounts for about half the budget.

Vernon’s school fees also include its portion of the Brattleboro Union District #6 budget — the high school, middle school, and Windham Regional Career Center — as well as fees to the supervisory union and tuition payments to students attending other schools. Vernon offers school choice.

“You have to look at that entire student population,” Hebert said.

More Vernon voters need to attend each February’s Brattleboro District #6 meeting and should vote down that budget if they’re not happy with education taxes, he said.

Of the 1,687 registered voters in Vernon, only 10 attended the BUHS District #6 meeting in February to vote on the fiscal 2016 budget.

If the recount does not go in the School Board’s favor, board members will revise the budget for another town-wide vote to happen in either late April or early May.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #296 (Wednesday, March 11, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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