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Despite storm, voters approve LGUHS budget, 156-71

TOWNSHEND—Last Wednesday’s big snowstorm kept the turnout down, but 227 voters in the five towns in the Leland & Gray Union High School district nevertheless braved the elements and approved a more than $6.3-million budget for the 2011-12 school year by a 156-71 margin.

Turnout last year was 354. In 2009, it was 344.

A smaller snowstorm the day before the vote kept people away from the district meeting, which drew about the same number of school board and district officials as voters, around 17.

School officials said that there were few options for canceling an election and a warned meeting and short of a state-of-emergency, little could be done to postpone the scheduled vote.

The undeterred from Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend, and Windham gave their approval to a nearly level-funded budget with no tax hikes, but with some cutbacks in programs and teacher hours.

The cutbacks are still to be determined. At a Dec. 14 school board meeting, members voted 6-4 to use the district’s share of $19 million of promised federal stimulus money — about $78,000 — to reinstate programs and staff hours.

Frank Rucker, the district’s chief financial officer, said the money may not be enough to take care of a projected budget deficit. In December, changes were made by the state to the school funding formula, resulting in a $114,000 shortfall for LGUHS.

Rucker said even if the district receives the $78,000 in stimulus money, a deficit will still remain. The change in the school funding formula effectively amounts to a 2 cent increase in property taxes, he said.

But, as he pointed out, the final effect of these changes is theoretical at the moment.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #87 (Wednesday, February 9, 2011).

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