FAIRFIELD — Voters from Fairfield, Albion, Clinton and Benton will head to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $25.9 million budget proposed by the School Administrative District 49 School Board.

The proposed budget is up about 3 percent or $781,150, more than last year. The budget initially proposed by the school board included an almost 5 percent increase, but voters at the annual budget meeting on May 7 voted to remove payments to charter schools, reducing the budget by $461,000. Gov. Paul LePage recently enacted a law that switches responsibility for making payments to charter schools from local districts to the Maine Department of Education, allowing districts to remove the funding from their budgets.

The original budget floated by the school administration would have increased tax rates in the five towns by at least 10 percent, adding more than $200 to the tax bill for a home worth $100,000. With the reduction in charter school funding, the impact is lessened, but a tax increase will still be necessary to cover the spending, said School Board Chairman Steven Grenier.

The budget increases includes $694,000 in contracted wage raises for personnel, including money to raise the beginning salary for first-year teachers to $36,000, more money for health and workers’ compensation, spending on teachers’ retirement, and funding to buy two school buses.

But Grenier said that the increase in spending is primarily driven by cost shifts from the state, including a $382,000 contribution to the Maine State Retirement system, which the district did not have to consider until a few years ago. At the same time, the school district is expecting to receive $412,000 less in state aid this year and will likely be required to increase the amount it raises locally to receive state funding.

“The increases that we’re showing don’t have anything to do with the district asking for itself,” Grenier said.

He admitted that public reaction to the budget that he’s heard has not been positive.

“I have not heard a lot of good response,” Grenier said, “but I’m optimistic the people will see it is not the school district that is asking for the increase.”

Polls will be open throughout the day in the four towns. In Albion, voting will be held at the town office on Main Street from 3 to 7 p.m. Benton polls will be open at the town office on Clinton Avenue from 1 to 7 p.m. Fairfield polls will be open at the town office on Lawrence Avenue from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Clinton polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at the town office on Baker Street.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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