Residents from the 10 towns of Farmington-based Regional School Unit 9 were still debating the proposed $33.6 million budget for 2017-18 by press time Tuesday night. The districtwide budget meeting was called Tuesday on a $33.9 million spending package that twice has been rejected.

If passed, the new $33.6 million budget would represent an $887,984, or 2.71 percent increase over the previous year, and it came with a lot of hard work for the school board and a long summer for administrators, Superintendent Thomas Ward said by phone before the meeting.

“It’s always hard, but we didn’t pass the budget the first time,” Ward said. “We narrowed the margin the second time, but it wasn’t enough. So to go a third time is really difficult because we’ve already started school and we have a number of positions we can’t fill until we get a new budget.”

Ward added that every time there is a budget meeting and a referendum vote in each town, it costs the district and towns money for meeting space and polling stations.

Since the last failed vote in early August, the board cut a half-time American Sign Language teaching position that had been added to the budget during the July 25 budget referendum vote as well as 1.5 social worker positions. Directors preserved half of a new social worker position to supplement a half time position at the Mt. Blue Middle School. The social worker positions were created to work with regular instruction students in the district.

To come to the new figure, school board directors cut $292,414 from their second $33.9 million budget proposal. Reversing its previous decision, the board voted to direct all $729,000 in additional state funds toward reducing assessments for district towns.

The new spending package includes $165,431 in additional state revenue the board had directed toward capital improvement projects. Those projects will now be paid through a previously approved $318,000 bond issue.

If approved in its current form, seven of the district’s 10 towns would see reductions in their assessments. Towns receiving decreases would include Farmington, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton. Chesterville, Starks and Industry would still see increases to their assessments.

If voters approve the new budget, the RSU 9 district referendum vote in each town will be Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow