On June 16, the new budget proposed by the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) board passed 1,213 to 738. Compare this voting outcome to that of the previous budget that failed on Town Meeting Day with 2,254 voting in favor of the budget and 3,048 voting against it. This time, voter turnout was smaller and the pendulum of public approval swung in the opposite direction with the majority of voters approving of the new school budget.
What makes this budget different from the last? For starters, the newly approved $39,751,941 budget is $20,401 less than the budget that failed on Town Meeting Day. However, cost wasn’t the only difference at play.
The newly approved budget is unique in that it does not achieve its savings through middle school consolidation. While one cannot interpret votes, a “no” vote on the last budget coincidentally came in tandem with a concerted local effort from several community members that encouraged voters to reject the school budget in admonishment of the “rezoning” aspect of the budget; that is, the middle school consolidation that would have sent all seventh- and eighth-graders from Harwood Union Middle School and fifth- and sixth-graders from Moretown to Crossett Brook for fall 2020.
While the previous budget garnered savings primarily from staff cuts associated with the middle school merger, the newly approved budget achieves its savings from other sources.
For this budget, savings come from all across the board, including several teacher retirements announced since Town Meeting Day, the elimination of $80,000 worth of personal development workshops for teachers, a $20,000 elimination of legal expenses for potential bullying claims, the postponement of a $15,000 playground equipment installation for Fayston Elementary School, the postponement of a $6,000 installation of sound panels for Moretown Elementary School and $69,000 in savings from line item reductions determined by principals from each school. These specific line items differ for each school, but are largely composed of expenses for books, furniture and other general school supplies.
“We are grateful for the support of our six-town community to approve this budget, allowing our district to focus on the plans for next fall and many important initiatives underway,” said school board chair Caitlin Hollister.