OAKLAND — Voters Tuesday rejected the Regional School Unit 18 budget in a district-wide referendum. It was the second time the budget has failed.

RSU 18 Superintendent Gary Smith released unofficial vote tallies Tuesday night that showed the vote to reject the $32,599,068 budget was 1,031 to 831.

The budget had been criticized as too large and having too big an impact on local taxes by many in the five towns represented by the school district.

Only Rome voted to pass the budget. Sidney, China, Oakland and Belgrade all voted the budget down.

The budget was $430,171 less than the $33 million that was rejected by voters June 12 on a much smaller margin, 1,209 to 1,171.

Smith said that the rejection was the result of active campaigning by budget opponents.

“There has been a very significant effort by select board officials to convince folks to vote no,” he said. “I attribute it to a very persistent group that send out automated calls, passed out pamphlets at municipal landfills and stuff like that. It’s a bummer.”

In Belgrade and Sidney, selectmen signed letters calling for more cuts.

Earlier in the day, Smith had expressed hope that the vote would bring an end to a period of uncertainty for the district and allow administrators to focus on the upcoming school year.

Rome voted in favor of the budget, 43-15. In Sidney, the vote was 256-203 against; China, 141-114; Oakland, 410-315; and Belgrade, 209-156.

Smith said that the turnout, while lower than the June vote which also included the state’s primary election, was nearly triple that of comparable local elections, which do not coincide with statewide elections.

By the late afternoon, Smith said that he could tell the number of voters was going to be significant.

The individual components of the budget were discussed and approved by voters at a public meeting on July 26.

The rejection will touch off another round of discussion and revision before coming up for another vote later in the year. Property tax bills have already been mailed in some towns and officials are considering how to address possible differences. Previously published information about the tax bills was incorrect.

The rejected budget was a 2 percent increase higher than last year’s budget, and included $449,521 in added salary and benefit costs. About another $550,000 in added costs came from debt service, school choice vouchers and an energy project lease.

School administrators have said a steep dropoff in federal aid and reduced state sharing revenues were major factors in the budget crunch.

Next year’s budget is likely to face further reductions, and will also include the loss of a $1.45 million cushion that was spent from an existing fund balance to soften the blow to taxpayers.

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