I’m signing the petition that is currently circulating in Walden, Vermont that calls for a reconsideration of the school’s budget vote that passed by a very narrow margin of 116-113 on Town Meeting Day.
Frankly, I am not all that upset with the budget itself – but that could be because after last year’s initially proposed 17% hike anything looks more reasonable in comparison. The school board seemed to be getting the message – after five votes – that the people of Walden are beyond the point of simply struggling over the ever-increasing tax burden.
But while the school board was telling us with words that they were “hearing” the voters, the Town Clerk, Lina Smith, and the School Board Chair, Judy Clifford, pushed forward a proposal to make it harder for the voters of Walden to be heard. Specifically, they proposed to increase the percentage of voters needed to call for a reconsideration vote from 5% of the electorate to 20%, a huge increase.
The “reconsideration vote” was the tool used last year by the Walden voters when successfully forcing the school board to cut their enormous budget increase.
At Town Meeting, however, they were met with stiff opposition from the floor and quickly offered a compromise seeking an increase to 10%. It worked (for them), as the 70-or-so voters who were still hanging around after four and half hours passed it.
“Take that!” was the clear message. But while celebrating this obvious attempt to make democracy a whole lot harder for the voters, they failed to realize that they were taking one, big, menacing swing at the hornet’s nest that be the Walden voters – especially when they’re feeling pushed around.
Before this vote, the cantankerous mood that had settled on the town during last year’s five acrimonious votes was mellowing. People on both sides were more than a bit fatigued by it all. Moreover, the school board said it was listening and the voters seemed willing to trust them based on a much, much lower increase in this year’s budget.
Like I said, then they took a swing at the hornet’s nest. So here we go again.
I’m signing the petition that seeks a reconsideration of the school budget vote as a protest of this collaboration between the town clerk and school board chair. And, next year, I look forward to working with voters to petition the school board to reinstate the 5% reconsideration threshold.