October 29, 2020

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Town Meeting Approves School Diversity Role, Budget Cuts

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BURLINGTON, MA — Burlington’s town meeting voters approved cuts to the town’s current budget, funding...

BURLINGTON, MA — Burlington’s town meeting voters approved cuts to the town’s current budget, funding for a new position at the school district, and a handful of zoning articles at the first night of the fall town meeting, Wednesday.

The meeting was conducted partially in person but with most members attending remotely. It was adjourned for the evening after article 13, leaving the last five articles for Monday, Oct. 5.

The bulk of Wednesday’s meeting was devoted to debating and amending article 7, which would provide the School Committee $81,000 in funding to hire a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. A slightly-amended version ultimately passed, specifying that the funding would be added to the school budget and stripping the words “wages for.”

Some town meeting members worried about the budget impact and wanted to postpone the article or amend it further, but it passed 73 to 33.

Members of the school Equity Committee argued that the town has put off dealing with bigotry at the schools for too long. Student Sara Shaikh read testimony from fellow students and alumni about racism experienced at the schools, and advocates for the article noted that the district’s teachers are more than 95 percent white while the students are 35 percent non-white.

The proposed cuts to the budget, to address a $2.1 million shortfall, passed more easily, as did a group of zoning articles allowing “function facilities” like Cafe Escadrille to build parking decks. But a proposed zoning amendment to allow ground-mounted solar panels in front yards, with conditions, failed.

Articles 5 and 6 were withdrawn and articles 8 and 9 were postponed.

Town meeting will address other zoning questions when it reconvenes, Oct. 5.

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