FAIRFIELD — Discussion heated up quickly Thursday night at a school board meeting with a call for the immediate resignation of the board chairman and vice chairman and a loud call to order by a slap of the chairman’s gavel.

The meeting was held, in part, to discuss the possibility of cutting sports programs to create a budget that voters would accept. Fairfield businessman Tim Martin was on his feet right away, questioning the integrity of the board chairman and the vice chairman.

“Your comments were uncalled for. They were your own individual comments and outside of co-curricular. I expect more out of the two of you than to voice your opinion,” Martin said to School Administrative District 49 board Chairman Steve Grenier, of Albion, and Vice Chairman Shelly Rudnicki, of Fairfield, for their comments published Thursday in the Morning Sentinel. “I question your leadership as chairman and vice chair of this school board and would absolutely like your immediate resignations.”

Grenier was quoted in the paper saying he would refuse to cut from educational programs in the district.

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

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

The proposed $25.9 million budget was defeated by voters in Fairfield, Albion, Benton and Clinton, the district’s four towns. On Wednesday, Grenier said he was going to propose cutting at least $100,000, targeting sports in particular. On Thursday, he admitted that probably would not be enough to meet budget goals.

“The district will not lay off a teacher before we deal with extracurricular activities,” Grenier was quoted as saying. “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, from the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Grenier countered Martin’s statements, saying the board would cut as much or as little as it needs to bring a new budget to voters.

“No sport will be eliminated, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I will continue to ask for a percentage of every item in this budget that does not affect education. My leadership has never been in question. If I was not doing my job, I would not be elected as chair. I put education first before sports.”

Martin said sports is a lifelong educational activity and continued speaking until Grenier called him out of order and offered to have him escorted out of the meeting.

Calming voices soon arose with Fairfield resident Elayne Richard offering to work with the board to educate the public about budget matters and priorities.

The meeting was calmed further by Lawrence High School sports icon Pete Cooper, for whom the sports stadium at Keyes Field is named, who told the board that the “carry-over value” of sports programs for boys and girls is found in their character, their commitment and their willingness to get up when they are knocked down.

“Those are the things that to me are life skills,” Cooper said. “You can’t get those in the classroom.”

Cooper read from three letters sent to him by former student athletes, including Martin, who told the board to “keep an open eye” on the life lessons of participating in co-curricular activities, whether band, chorus or athletics.

Fairfield town councilors in April warned residents of a coming tax hike and even suggested that voters reject the proposed budget if they did not like what they saw. Voters in Tuesday’s referendum in the four towns rejected the plan 447-284.

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 anticipated 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.

Aaron Rowden, a Fairfield town councilor, said in April there was a public perception that the school budget was “administration-heavy and not necessarily to advance the mission of the school district.”

SAD 49 voters in 2014 approved a $25.14 million budget, an increase of $367,145 or about 1.5 percent over the previous year’s budget of $24.77 million.

Grenier said other possibilities for financial savings include closing the Clinton school, the Albion school and Fairfield Primary School and using state money and a local bond to build a new school. Grenier added that when his term of office is up in March, he will not seek re-election.

A schedule of upcoming meetings also was announced Thursday night.

• Tuesday, May 26, 7 p.m. public hearing on the budget at the junior high school.

• Thursday, May 28, a special board meeting at 7 p.m. to finalize the budget.

• Monday, June 1, a board meeting to sign special meeting warrants.

• June 4, regular school board meeting.

• June 5, high school graduation.

• June 11, the SAD 49 district budget meeting at 7 p.m. in the junior high school gymnasium.

• June 16, districtwide validation referendum, times and locations to be announced.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow