School Administrative District 49 leaders say they will look at cutting funding for sports and other extracurricular activities to reduce the school budget the day after voters rejected their proposed spending plan in a ballot referendum.

The $25.9 million budget was defeated by voters in Fairfield, Albion, Benton and Clinton, the district’s four towns. The school board now has to come up with a new plan to present to voters at a future referendum.

On Wednesday, school board Chairman Steve Grenier, of Albion, said he was going to propose cutting at least $100,000, targeting sports in particular.

“The district will not lay off a teacher before we deal with extracurricular activities,” Grenier said. “I think it is a terrible thing that people will put sports before the education of their children.”

The SAD 49 budget called for an increase of $781,150, or 3 percent, over the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

A majority of the proposed spending hike was for contracted increases in wages and benefits for employees, as well as increases in insurance and payments to the state retirement system. But with decreases in state aid and an increase in the amount that has to be raised in local taxes to get a state match, the proposed budget would have meant substantial tax rate increases in the district’s four towns.

The plan was rejected by voters in the four towns 447-284. A majority in each of the four towns voted the budget down, and it was defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in Fairfield, where the district is headquartered.

But voters in the sports-loving district might not like where the school board decides to make cuts, Grenier said.

“I’m not going to be a popular guy,” he said.

Grenier said he would refuse to cut from educational programs in the district and also said that some extracurricular items, such as music, also would not be on the chopping block.

“I’m going to attack anything that’s not a lifelong activity,” Grenier said.

At least $100,000 can be cut from extracurricular activities before educational programming is considered, he said. He will have to gain the support of at least seven school board members to make the cuts he is proposing, he said, admitting that some representatives would oppose the proposal.

Shelly Rudnicki, the school board vice chairwoman from Fairfield, however, echoed Grenier’s position.

“I am against cutting anything that directly affects education,” Rudnicki said Wednesday.

Rudnicki said she would be looking at cuts to funding for sports and other co-curricular activities before looking at teaching staff and programs.

Last year, the board faced a revolt from parents when it proposed cuts to sports, including the small but expensive hockey program that it shares with SAD 54 in Skowhegan, and it might expect the same reaction if it proposes similar cuts this year, Rudnicki said.

“There’s going to be some tough decisions, and there are going to be some people who will not be happy with the cuts we make,” she said.

Ron Liberty, a board member from Benton, however, said he didn’t know about cutting any specific areas.

“I would imagine that all the lines in the budget would be subject to cuts at this point,” Liberty said, adding that it was too early for him to comment on specific programs since the board hasn’t met about the budget yet.

Both Liberty and Rudnicki also said they were disappointed with the turnout in Tuesday’s elections. In the four towns 731 voters turned up at the polls, and the budget was defeated by a vote of 447-284.

“That bothers me,” Rudnicki said. “If it doesn’t pass, that’s fine, but I would like people to take an interest in this stuff.”

The board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield to begin assembling a new budget to present to voters.

Even with cuts, taxpayers should expect some spending increases, Rudnicki said.

“I don’t think a flat budget is going to happen,” she said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire