by Doug McClure
WOLCOTT – Wolcott voters rejected Wolcott Elementary School’s proposed budget for a second time.
This most recent budget proposal, totaling $5,137,392.24, was voted down 213-189. If passed, the budget would have increased the tax rate by 2.3 cents. Four-hundred-three voters cast ballots, representing a nearly 75% increase from the 231 voters who rejected the previous $5,154,519 budget by 138-91. The school board chair and the school’s principal said they could not recall a budget ever failing twice.
Describing the failed vote as “distressing to say the least,” Wolcott School Board Chair Elliot Waring said, “Combined with the fact that Wolcott was one of only three towns in the entire state to not pass a budget on Town Meeting Day, it is disheartening to think that the voting townspeople don’t appear to feel the same way as me (or the board) in regards to the value of education in our town. I’m hopeful we can get a budget passed, and also improve the communication between the voters/taxpayers and the board to ensure we are all working with a shared vision for the kids of our town going forward.”
Wolcott Elementary Principal Matt Foster said, “My staff and I are very disappointed in the results.” Foster said in his five years as principal he had not seen a budget fail to pass on its second attempt. “I have already met with the OSSU [Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union] business office to begin crafting the next budget proposal,” he said. “We hope to get a budget proposal back out to the community in early June that will get the additional 24 votes to pass and keep the impact on our students and staff to a minimum.”
Voters passed a ballot measure, 292-108, to transfer $50,000 from the building maintenance reserve fund to be used as general fund revenue in the FY22 budget to decrease local taxes.
As noted in previous meetings, the proposed rate of $1.6987 was heavily influenced by Wolcott’s dropping Common Level of Appraisal (CLA). In the eyes of the state, Wolcott’s houses are selling for considerably more than the town valued them in its Grand List. If the CLA had been the same as last year, the tax rate would have been lower than in FY21, but the CLA dropped from 95.51% to 94.21%. One analysis showed out-of-state buyers spent $1m on homes in Wolcott in 2020, more than the previous three years combined. If the CLA hits 85%, the state will force a reappraisal. The board met on April 27 to start to hammer out a new plan.