The slashed budget came up for a vote yesterday. It was representing almost $1 million in cuts for the coming year, and I was very concerned what would happen if it passed. Needless to say, I was on edge the whole day. My gut told me the budget hawks were already bringing out as many people to the polls as they could. The big question in my mind was how many people the school supporters could really turn out. We’d seen some great response the last few weeks, but none of it matters if people don’t show up to vote.
Our opposition increased their turnout by 12.5%. They had one of their strongest showings, with 1,608 votes in their favor. But that’s about where they’ve fallen in before. Our side increased turnout by 124.3%. Read that number again. We more than doubled our support, bringing in 2,893 votes. So we ended up defeating the slashed budget by 1,285 votes. 64% opposed to 36% in favor.
Naturally I’m ecstatic. It felt so validating to have so many people turn out to show their support. Though I will admit 36% is still a very concerning number to me. It means that a full third of the community was totally ready and willing to accept the massive cuts that were on the table. I recognize many of them thought it was a bluff. That the school board would never really cut sports, drama, music, arts, and more. Up to 30 teaching positions. But they heard all of that and decided it was worth the risk anyway.
That’s troubling, and I think it speaks to how serious they are about the need to reduce spending. When a third of the community feels like that, I believe they should be listened to. Not that we should go through with all the cuts they wanted, but they need to be recognized and feel like their voice was heard. Otherwise, the rift only grows greater.
And we’re going to need some mended fences to come together, because we’re not done yet. From here, the school board goes back to the drawing board to see what sort of a budget they want to propose next. (The fourth such proposal.) That will then go to another budget meeting, where the public can vote to approve it or change it. And then that final budget will need to be voted on one more time.
Hopefully, that budget will be one that spares the schools from massive cuts, but reassures voters who are concerned about spending increases. Communication will be key.
And turning up to vote, both at the meeting and at the polls, will remain essential.
But for today, I’m just relieved and happy. Celebrations are in order, and then it’s back to work. Thanks to everyone for their words of support and encouragement. It really means a lot.