GARDINER — In a marked contrast to a year ago, taxpayers who live within School Administrative District 11 approved the budget proposed by the school board for Gardiner area schools, with few comments and little expressed concern.

At $24,055,000, the proposed budget is 0.63 percent or $151,000 higher than the current year’s budget. The local share of the budget would increase by $332,615. For the communities in the school district, the increases break down this way, based on a $100,000 home:

• Gardiner, 2.92 percent, or $29.89

• Randolph, 1.66 percent, or $17.94

• Pittston, 4.11 percent, or $44.66

• West Gardiner, 4.28 percent or $45.00

At Tuesday’s budget validation meeting, SAD 11 school board finance committee Chairman Eric Jermyn said the district has lost 62 students since 2014 and as a result, the subsidy the district receives likewise has decreased, and that has consequences for what the district is able to do.

“We challenged our administrators to put forward a budget that was tight, and they did. And then we asked them to make it tighter, and they did that as well,” he said,

The district was able to find some savings in health insurance spending. The rate of increase on its health insurance rates through the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust was $100,000 less than anticipated.

The school board chose to make cuts in staffing and programs, Jermyn said, but also to add an English language learner teacher and a special education teacher and spend some money on a communications system to allow district officials to communicate directly with parents via social media and mobile phone.

In addition to the other articles that were approved, those at the meeting voted 61-4 to appropriate an additional $2,774,687 in local funds, which exceeds the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model by $2.1 million, to fund the budget proposed by the school board.

District officials and staff members were on hand to answer questions about staffing and expenses.

Last year, more than 90 people attended the meeting and sharply questioned school board officials on their spending priories.

This year, fewer questions were asked and fewer people attended.

Jermyn said he thinks it’s because this year, the board’s meetings are being livestreamed on the internet and are available as video on demand.

And people are watching. Jermyn said he and other board members are hearing from residents via email and at Parent-Teacher Organization meetings about issues they have seen at meetings and are more informed.

The budget now goes to a referendum vote at the polls on Tuesday.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ