SALEM — An ongoing feud between school board members, the teachers union and residents has led to a $9.4 million spending plan that’s been chopped down to a $265,000 budget, which will go to a districtwide vote Tuesday.

School officials, meanwhile, are warning they will declare the $265,000 budget — barely 3 percent of what was proposed — to be “unconstitutional” and sign warrants for a reconsideration budget meeting if residents of the district’s towns of Kingfield, Avon, Phillips and Strong vote to approve it Tuesday.

“It’s the obligation of the board of directors to provide a public education for the students in their districts, and they have to fund it accordingly,” said Superintendent Erica Brouille. “By giving us $265,000, they’re not funding what they’re directed to do. They have a statutory obligation to provide education for the kids — our budget’s $9 million. It was amended to $265,000. So they’re not fulfilling the statutory obligation that they have, so we would have to declare that budget unconstitutional. We don’t want to go there, because there are no statutes around that. We want to just have a no vote and go to another budget meeting.”

The School Administrative District 58 board of directors met Tuesday night following last week’s vote by residents to de-fund the district, but most of the meeting was held in executive session and no budget questions were answered. At a district budget meeting last Thursday, voters dismantled the proposed $9.4 million budget, line item by line item, until it was down to about $265,000.

Last week’s vote was the latest step in a battle between the Mount Abram Teachers Association and the school board, in which teachers have been left without a contract and several administrators have packed their bags.

Parents, teachers and community members filled the Mount Abram Regional High School library Tuesday night as extra folding chairs were brought in. Chatter around the room suggested attendees were anticipating another contentious meeting as flow charts were distributed indicating what a yes or no vote on the current budget would mean.

The school board presented a flow chart that said a no vote “would be the appropriate and responsible vote for all because the board will then not have to declare the previous whole process unconstitutional.” If voters don’t approve the budget, the board will schedule another budget meeting. The number of voters attending the new meeting have to equal or be more than the number at last Thursday’s district budget meeting.

Shortly after the meeting began Tuesday night, the board went into executive session and cleared the crowded room, causing further speculation among those milling about the hallways.

It was evident at the outset that the rift was wide between the Mount Abram Teachers Association and the school board of directors.

Teachers association President Sally Bean said last Thursday’s budget vote was a protest vote driven by teachers, who have been working without a contract since the end of the 2012-13 school year. Line items such as regular instruction and special education were knocked down to $1 each while the pre-kindergarten program was de-funded.

“Over half of district administrators have quit in the last three months, an unheard of exodus of valuable personnel,” Bean said. “Teacher and ed tech contracts have languished for years, costing us even more staff.”

Administrators leaving are Brouillet, the superintendent, as well as technology director Angel Allen, business manager Luci Milewski, high school Principal Marco Alberti and high school Dean of Students and Athletic Director James Black.

Bean said there’s a movement underway supported by parents concerned about the current trends to break the district apart, a move that would force the smaller communities to shoulder the financial burden of going on alone.

“No board member has taken any action to address the mass resignations of administrators,” Bean said. “No real attempts are being made to compromise in the slightest bit on either of the labor contracts.”

Bean said, “Those of us who have children, work with them, or care for their well-being find this unacceptable and have demonstrated this by refusing to authorize the current board to spend $9 million of taxpayer money when the way it’s being spent is so ruinous.”

Kingfield resident Brian Hatfield said he’s concerned about the budget, and that’s why he was at the meeting Tuesday.

“Education is really the highest tax burden that Kingfield has,” he said. “The proposed budget was unrealistic, and so it’s very important that they come up with a solution that is a suitable budget, and they really need to get it done. It’s just not acceptable not to get it done.”

Hatfield said the incoming students all have a vested interest in the board coming up with a workable budget.

“I think they have issues that they have to deal with,” Hatfield said. “The budget clearly is on the top of the shelf, and they need to negotiate with the teachers.” He said the whole situation has “progressively gotten worse.”

After the executive session ended Tuesday night, the crowd quietly made its way back to their seats before the gavel fell, ending the meeting with no public input or further comment.

Douglas McIntire — 861-9252

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Twitter: @CD_McIntire