Voters from Fairfield, Albion, Clinton and Benton said it loud and clear in School Administrative District 49 voting Tuesday on a proposed $25.9 million budget for the coming year.

They said “No.”

The vote was 447-284 against the spending package.

A majority of voters in each town rejected the budget. The totals were Albion, 43 yes and 51 no; Benton, 59-84; Clinton, 65-84; and Fairfield, 117-228, according to officials in the respective towns.

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

He admitted that public reaction to the budget that he’s heard had 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.”

The proposed budget was up about 3 percent or $781,150 more than that of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The budget initially offered by the SAD 49 school board included an almost 5 percent increase, but voters at the annual budget meeting on May 7 agreed to remove payments to charter schools, reducing the budget by $461,000.

The Legislature 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 and shifting the payments to the state.

The original budget proposed 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 effect is lessened, but a tax increase still would be necessary to cover the spending, officials have said.

The budget increases include $694,000 in contracted wage raises for personnel, money to increase 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.

The increase in spending is driven primarily by cost shifts from the state, including a $382,000 contribution to the Maine State Retirement System, which the district didn’t have to consider until recently. At the same time, the school district is expecting to receive $412,000 less in state aid this year and probably will be required to increase the amount it raises locally to receive state funding.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow