SOUTH BURLINGTON — Voters passed a $49,268,888 budget Tuesday.
It is the third time this spring city voters have considered a spending plan at the ballot box. City voters originally rejected a proposed fiscal plan at March Town Meeting and once again gave a revised spending plan the thumbs down April 6.
The vote to approve the budget was 3,146 to 2,067. The spending plan is a 4.89 increase over this year’s current budget. Education property taxes will decrease 1.2 percent.
School Commissioner and board Clerk Martin LaLonde was pleased with the results. “I’m very happy,” LaLonde said. “Now, we can move ahead.”
In interviews at the polls, voters had mixed opinions. Lee Emmons is a retired South Burlington educator and coach. He said he planned on voting against the budget. His opposition to the Rebel nickname change along with concern about the rapid growth in school budgets fueled his opposition. “I’m voting no because we’re spending too much money,” he said.
Emmons coached sports for years in the district and he is concerned about the course the discussion on the Rebel nickname change has taken and about the ultimate decision made by the school board to drop the Rebel nickname.
“During the time I worked here, I never thought that the Rebel name was associated with the Confederate States of America.”
On social media, the budget passage also prompted an array of comments. Kiya Batmanglidj, who graduated from South Burlington High School and now works in Washington, D.C., as a congressional aide was a leading voice in the opposition to the Rebel name change.
Following the announcement of the budget’s passage, Batmanglidj wrote on the Rebel Alliance public Facebook page that opposition to the board’s decision to ditch the nickname along with greater scrutiny regarding the district’s budget plans made a difference.
“Many people also sought to have a voice on the budget and we did something that has never been done before in the city’s history,” he said “We defeated a budget, not just once, but twice. Tonight, however, the voters have spoken and approved the school budget on the third vote. We must respect that and I congratulate our opponents for a hard-fought victory. It was well earned.”
At Chamberlin School, City Council member Meaghan Emery stood outside in the rain, holding a sign, urging residents to vote “yes.” Emery, who has three children in the district, said the budget is “responsible.”
Debbie O’Brien, with two children in the district, stood with Emery near the entrance to the school. She believes the spending plan was in the best interest of students and the district. “We were pretty determined to move to South Burlington because of the schools,” she said. “I like the security of a community that supports the schools.”
Meanwhile, South Burlington Police are investigating racist graffiti spray painted onto the high school’s athletic field.
Superintendent David Young said in a press release that the graffiti was discovered about 2 p.m. Tuesday — the same day voters returned to city polls to vote. A boys lacrosse game was canceled.
District officials requested that police investigate the matter as a potential hate crime. Police and officials did not reveal what the graffiti said because of the investigation.
Young didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple didn’t return a call, seeking comment.