FARMINGTON — Voting was neck-and-neck for and against a $1.2 million increase in the Regional School Unit 9 budget Tuesday night as incomplete election results came in.

As of Tuesday night the total from five polls puts the no vote just slightly ahead, at 368-360, according to unofficial results.

Industry voted no 48-39; New Vinyard voted no 69-12; Starks voted yes 31-6,;Weld voted yes 16-11; and Farmington voted yes 262-234. Numbers were not available Tuesday night from New Sharon, Chesterville, Wilton, Temple and Vienna.

The proposed new budget of $32.25 million for the 2015-2016 school year represented an increase of 3.9 percent, or about $1.2 million over the current budget.

Adult education was also increased to $385,490 — an increase of 13,379 over the current budget.

“The major issue driving the increase to the RSU 9 budget is a $600,000 increase in special education,” Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ward said. “That increase is a number of things which include unexpected enrollment of students that require significant services ranging from one to one ed techs to out of district placement.”

Ward said this increased need also facilitates the need for more social workers and school psychologists to meet the needs of a growing special education population.

Special education funding has increased over the years since the first introduction of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975.

One of the main tenants of IDEA is a “free and appropriate public education” offering the least restrictive environment possible for each student. Often this means integrating the student into the general classroom with additional supports like education technicians but sometimes that means out of district placements at special purpose schools that have built in supports, but those services come at a premium.

New Sharon selectwoman Lorna Nichols said in a release that she, Travis Pond and Milton Sinclair from the New Sharon board called on the public for a “no” vote.

The release said, “With continued reductions in state funding, RSU 9’s budget increase of $1.2 million puts New Sharon’s increase to you, our taxpayers, at $171,291 more than 2014 – potentially bringing the current mil rate of 15.2 to 18.2 (or higher), which equates to $300 more per $100,000 of property valuation.”

It said that while board members strongly support education, “the state Legislature has discussed adding between $25 million and $50 million into General Purpose Aid for education as part of the budget process, which would help to reduce the burden locally, there is no guarantee that will happen – and in the end, the increase for all 10 district towns ultimately falls upon local taxpayers.”

Douglas McIntire — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @CD_McIntire