Residents of the five towns in Regional School Unit 18 voted down a proposed $34.7 million budget Tuesday in a ballot referendum.

As a result of the vote, the school board will have to review the budget and present a new spending plan to voters in another referendum.

Voters defeated the proposal 747-619. RSU 18 includes the towns of Oakland, Sidney, Rome, Belgrade and China, and the vote is tabulated cumulatively.

“It’s not good,” said School Board Chairwoman Laura Tracy after learning the results Tuesday night. “It’s disappointing. It’s a tight budget.”

The budget passed in only Oakland and China by tight margins. It failed in the other three towns and was defeated soundly in Belgrade, where residents voted almost 2-to-1 — 207-105 — against the proposal.

Town officials in Belgrade, Rome and Sidney came out in public opposition to the budget leading up to the vote.

The proposed budget was 2.7 percent higher than last year’s, an increase of $933,760. It was driven almost entirely by increases in salaries and wages. But high property valuations in the district, reductions in state aid for education and increases in the local amount required for state aid meant that local property taxpayers would bear the brunt of the increase.

Tracy said the board will begin working on a revised budget to present to voters, possibly as soon as the school board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the RSU 18 central office in Oakland.

The board and school administrators would have difficulty taking more money out of the budget without affecting staff and programs, Tracy said.

“There’s not fat in this budget. There never has been,” she said.

Although she knows some people don’t support the budget, she hasn’t heard people offer specific areas where they would like to see cuts, she said.

“It’s a tough place to start cutting even more. There’s not a lot of excess that doesn’t affect kids in classrooms,” Tracy said.

One area where the school board probably will look is the $115,000 that the board budgeted for payments to charter schools next year, Tracy said. Although a change in state law means that the Maine Department of Education will be paying charter schools directly next year and RSU 18 could have taken the money out of the budget, voters at the budget meeting on May 7 approved an amendment to keep it, partially to have a reserve fund for unforeseen expenses.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire