FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue school district voters passed $29.74 million budget at the town meeting-style gathering, ushering the budget through the first step of a two-step budget approval process.

The proposed budget, up 2.7 percent from this year’s budget of $28.96 million, was criticized by the chief selectmen from Farmington and New Vineyard.

Chairman Ryan Morgan, of Farmington, and First Selectmen Fay Adams, of New Vineyard, both spoke against the budget at the meeting and said their constituents cannot afford to pay for the increase.

“I think we need to trim this budget down and try to take a few shears to it,” Adams said.

Morgan, who is on the Franklin County Budget Committee, said he understood how hard it is to create a budget during tough times but also said he can’t support something that probably will increase the tax burden of his constituents. The two were the only people to speak against the budget, and only a few scattered nays were heard along with theirs during the final vote.

Superintendent Michael Cormier said about $340,000 of the increase stems from the fact that the school board is anticipating the Legislature passing on state retirement costs to the school districts. If the proposed budget was not anticipating those costs being passed along, it would be $29.4 million, up 1.7 percent from the current budget.

Other increases included $35,000 in salary to create a part-time assistant principal position at W.G. Mallett School in Farmington, which was debated at length during an earlier budget meeting. Cormier said the state recommended having another part-time administrator for the 450 students who attend the elementary school.

The budget also included several maintenance items that had been voted down in previous years. The proposed budget includes $18,000 to fix a leaning retaining wall at Academy Hill School in Wilton, which had been voted down the past three years. Voters also agreed to $86,000 for repairs to the Cascade Brook School playground. Cormier urged voters not to balk at the high cost and said the playground is so run-down it is a safety hazard.

More than 78 percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits. The budget also includes money for installing a biomass boiler to reduce heating costs, hiring additional staff for the special education program, adding two custodial positions for the larger Mt. Blue campus and for water and sewer increases at the Mt. Blue campus.

The budget approved at the meeting will then face a June 11 referendum to validate the proposed budget in the district’s 10 communities. They are Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton. Voting times will vary by town.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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