FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 residents confronted the district’s board of directors and administrators Tuesday evening at an informational budget meeting a week before the first round of voting on the board’s $33.9 million budget proposal.

The district’s annual budget vote is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, at 7 p.m. on the Mt. Blue campus. District voters will decide whether to accept the budget on June 13.

At a meeting Tuesday evening attended by about 10 residents, district administrators and the board fielded questions from several residents about the $33.9 million budget proposal, a 3.5 percent increase over last year.

Many of the questions focused on the district’s special education costs.

“We’ve gotten this reputation we’ll take on absolutely everybody and it’s a burden on the taxpayers,” said one distressed resident.

The board is requesting $565,523 in additional funding for special services. Of that proposed increase, $293,888 would go toward 17 additional education technicians, many of whom came in with new students during the previous school year, explained board member Jennifer Zweig-Hebert, of Starks.

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts are required to provide services to any students eligible for special education. Each of the last two years, families with $300,000 in special education needs moved into the RSU 9 district, said Superintendent Thomas Ward. Those unexpected costs contributed to district-wide budget freezes in the fall semester. The board has requested a $30,008 increase for its contingency fund to help weather future budget shocks.

The meeting also included a presentation by Jonathan Chalmers, RSU 9’s director of facilities management. Chalmers presented infrastructure projects the district would undertake if district towns approve a $317,834 bond proposal.

If approved, bond funds would go toward repairs across the district including $43,000 for exterior window replacements for several classrooms, the kitchen and two bathrooms in the G.D. Cushing School, $37,000 toward gym roof resurfacing at the G.D. Cushing School, $35,000 for exterior window replacements for second floor classrooms of the Cape Cod Hill School and $60,000 to excavate and pave the bus garage parking lot.

Other projects include upgrades to classroom lighting at G.D. Cushing School, replacing sidewalks at the entrance the Cape Cod Hill school, replacing the boiler in the bus garage, parking improvements for the adult education facility, installing air conditioning units in some Mt. Blue classrooms and replacing water storage tanks at Mt. Blue Middle School.

The bond would cost roughly $38,217 annually over 10 years with an estimated 3.5 percent interest rate. Interest would cost approximately $60,000 over the 10 year period, for a total cost of approximately $380,000. Payments on the budget would begin in the 2018-2019 school year. Ward said the bond would reduce the coming year’s budget by $77,595. Two years on, after payments begin, the budget would increase by $9,113.

Prior to the budget discussion, the board honored 11 of the top students at the Foster Career and Technical Education Center and Mt. Blue High School. Students stood to be recognized by their parents, peers and the board and informed the assembled crowds about their post-graduation college plans and intended majors.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

[email protected]

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick