This story was updated on March 2, 2022.
BRANDON — In a surprise outcome, the OVUUSD budget was defeated 522-462 by district voters in Town Meeting voting Tuesday. The district’s budget presented a 7.8% jump with per pupil spending increasing by 9.72%. Taxes throughout district towns, however, were not expected to rise nearly as much, with Brandon’s taxes rising only 1.69% compared to the prior year.
The defeat comes as a surprise only because very little public comment against the budget had been noticeable ahead of the vote.
The Barstow Unified School District budget passed, 346-226, and Susannah Loffredo won a seat on the BUSD school board director at large seat as a write-in candidate with 22 votes, just one more than needed to meet the 1% threshold.
One possible reason for the OVUUSD defeat was very low voter turnout because ballots were not mailed out, said RNESU Superintendent Jeanne Collins. Voter turnout was 30% less than the prior year’s vote, she added.
“It is unfortunate in the Otter Valley budget that the two larger towns (Brandon and Pittsford) voted to mail municipal ballots, but the school district could not unless all six towns agreed to. Thus, voter turn out was very low.”
Votes tallied in Brandon for the selectboard race, for example, yielded a total of 877, while the total vote for the OVUUSD budget — among all six towns — was only 984.
Collins said the OVUUSD board reorganizes on March 16 and will discuss next steps then.
“The two school boards worked hard on a budget that met the needs of the student in a post-pandemic world,” Collins said. “I would like to thank those who voted to support the budget in all 6 towns and am thrilled the Barstow budget was approved. The OV board will need to dive deep into where to invest their funds for next year and what budget to bring back to the voters. It is unfortunate that the schools could not do the mail-in ballot that the two largest towns did and that the voter turnout was so low.”
On the other school district votes for OVUUSD:
• Voters approved Article 8 that asked voters to approve the sale of 1.98 acres of land to the state for $6,750 related to easements and rights-of-way to allow the state to widen Route 7 on the eastern boundary of the Otter Valley Union High School property.
• For three-year seats on the school board, voters re-elected Derek Larsen to represent the Brandon seat; Laurie Bertrand to represent the Sudbury seat; and Barbara Ebling for her At-Large seat. Other seats remained unfilled, though some write-in votes were submitted but did not meet the 1% threshold to qualify.