FARMINGTON — Voters in Regional School Unit 9 on Tuesday rejected a proposed school budget for the third time, with 1,608 voting yes and 2,938 voting no, according to unofficial tallies provided by election clerks.

There was steady turnout Tuesday for the third referendum vote on a school budget, with both sides continuing to express their reservations over the $32.7 million budget proposal.

All 10 of the district’s towns reported unofficial results Tuesday night, showing the budget being rejected decisively by more than 1,300 votes across RSU 9 towns. Now officials will have to go back to the budget process and hold another budget meeting and referendum vote.

A “yes” vote on Tuesday would have agreed to cut nearly $1 million from the district’s proposed budget, with the primary target being funding for special education. Voters also passed a special education budget of $4,639,610, cutting $545,358 from the amount proposed by the board.

There seemed to have been a split among the steady stream of voters earlier in the day outside the Farmington polling station.

Peter Foster said he voted against the budget, saying while “both sides had issues” during the contentious debates, “I don’t think they communicated where reasonable cuts were being made.” He added, “Hopefully, we can work this out like reasonable adults.”

Jacqueline Gleason-Bouve, a student at the University of Maine Farmington, said she voted against the budget, saying she and other students felt scared because this was a “very big cut.” She said she was confused, since Farmington was known as a town that valued education, so it was weird they would want to cut funding to education.

She said she understands the sentiment behind the cut: a lot of people a struggling to pay for basic needs like heating.

“But this was the wrong solution,” she said.

Sonny Thomas, however, voted for the budget. He said he was concerned with how large an annual salary Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ward receives — it’s about $122,000 — saying he didn’t think wages should increase for Ward or others in the district, since the salaries in other professions don’t increase annually. He said he wasn’t against teachers getting paid or students going to school, but he thought the education provided could be improved. He said both sides of the argument had good ideas at past meetings, but he didn’t want to keep spending money.

“We’ve got to stop spending,” he said.

Janette Dunham said she also voted “yes” on the budget. While she hadn’t voted in the past two referendums, she decided she really should and came out Tuesday. She said she thought the budget was too much money, but understood times change and costs increase annually.

“We decided they needed it,” Dunham said.

Shanelle Coolidge brought her daughter, Kaitence, with her to the polls. Coolidge said she voted against the budget. She understood why people wanted to reduce the budget, as there are high property taxes and a declining population in town. But she said more funding was necessary to ensure a high quality education for the children.

“The future is in the children,” she said.

Jon Lesko and Aidan Underwood said they both voted “no” on the budget. Lesko works to broadcast the School Board meetings, so he said he was there for all the contentious moments.

“I definitely support the school,” Lesko said, adding the schools could stand to lose a lot if the reduced budget were to pass.

Underwood said many of the things he participates in school, such as music, would be hurt by the proposed budget. He said he thought there was not a lot of understanding behind what the cuts represented.

“People did not understand it, but they didn’t want to try,” he said.

Lesko said they helped organize Monday’s rally, where parents, residents and students from the university came to urge voters to reject the budget.

The unofficial votes from each RSU 9 town on Tuesday were:

• Chesterville, 168 yes, 166 no;

• Farmington, 1,243 no, 565 yes;

• Industry, 139 no, 60 yes;

• New Sharon, 227 yes, 210 no, with a single blank vote cast;

• New Vineyard, 99 yes, 98 no;

• Starks, 156 no, 24 yes;

• Temple, 123 no, 58 yes;

• Vienna, 124 no, 41 yes;

• Weld, 79 no, 49 yes;

• Wilton, 575 no, 322 yes.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis