Voters in Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales have rejected the second budget proposal drafted by the Regional School Unit 4 school board.

That $18.8 million budget proposal was 1.8 percent higher than the current year’s budget and received preliminary approval at a district budget meeting earlier this month. But the proposal failed on Tuesday, when residents from the three towns rejected it in a 213-184 vote.

This week’s vote followed one on June 14, in which voters rejected the board’s first budget draft, one that totaled $18.9 million budget.

While Litchfield was the only town to cast more ‘no’ than ‘yes’ votes on June 14, both Litchfield and Sabattus did so Tuesday, with respective votes of 77-96 and 59-94. Only Wales approved the proposal, in a 59-94 vote.

In recent interviews and public comments, some voters — from Litchfield, in particular — have criticized the district’s budget proposal, arguing it should be at least $100,000 lower and suggesting that residents on fixed incomes can’t keep pace with the increases in education spending.

Some Litchfield residents and officials also believe their town owes an unfair share of the district’s costs.

“I will do my best to convince the town of Litchfield to avoid this budget,” said Richard Lane, a member of the Litchfield Budget Committee, earlier this month at the district budget meeting after voters gave initial approval to the $18.8 million proposal.

But James Hodgkin, superintendent of RSU 4, called the outcome of Tuesday’s vote “exceedingly frustrating.”

“The really frustrating piece is, there’s an overwhelming number of people who want to support education but don’t turn out to the polls,” he said. “I’m very certain there are way more than that number of people who support education in RSU 4.”

This isn’t the first time in recent years when voters have rejected the RSU 4 budget through the latter part of summer. In 2015, voters in June defeated the original budget by about 30 votes, requiring another vote in July. And in 2013, voters rejected the budget twice before giving it final approval in August of that year.

One of the reasons for the proposed budget increase was a $422,014 reduction in the amount of state aid to the district for the 2017 school year. The budget proposal also included a $341,711 increase for, among other things, a bus, textbooks, technology investments and a new dean of students position that was meant to address an increase in students’ problematic behavior.

The school board more recently cut $100,000 from the budget proposal by not filling a vacant social studies position, filling open positions with less experienced teachers who are lower on the pay scale and taking advantage of bids that came back lower than expected for various district services.

The RSU 4 school board is holding a regularly scheduled meeting tonight, but Hodgkin said he did not know if board members would discuss the budget proposal. However, he said, “I think the board will vote to modify budget, and it will be some sort of decrease.”

The district then will have to hold another public budget meeting before another round of voting.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker