A $25.4 million school budget was passed by voters in a districtwide ballot referendum Tuesday.

A majority of voters in the towns of Fairfield, Albion, Clinton and Benton adopted the budget in a 474-385 vote.

The thinnest margin of victory for the budget was in Fairfield, where it passed by one vote, 185-184. In Albion it passed 95-52; in Clinton, 88-77; and in Benton, 106-72.

Roughly 8.6 percent of the 9,981 registered voters in the district turned out for the vote.

Reached Tuesday night, School Board Chairman Steve Grenier, of Albion, said he was happy that the budget passed but wished it had gotten more support from voters.

“I’m pleased this passed,” Grenier said. “We recognized that the voters wanted the reduction, and we gave them the best we could.”


Tuesday’s referendum was the second time a budget was presented to residents. A proposed $25.9 million budget was rejected by a majority of voters in all four towns on May 18. That budget was 3 percent more than this year’s spending plan, but it threatened to increase property taxes in the district substantially.

After the budget was defeated, the school board voted for $427,680 in cuts to reduce the budget increase to 1.4 percent.

Targets for the cuts included $142,000 from facilities maintenance, $93,000 from transportation, $75,000 from special education, $79,000 from administration and a $38,500 across-the-board cut from extracurricular activities.

The equivalent of one full-time administrator and at least three other positions will be eliminated because of the cuts, school board members have said.

The school board and administration consistently have blamed state government in Augusta for SAD 49’s budget increases. The state has increased the amount of required local funding for education and is reducing the amount of state aid districts receive. Officials estimated that SAD 49 will lose about $412,000 in revenue from the state in the coming school year.

School districts also are required to pay into the Maine State Retirement system for teachers, an estimated $382,000 expense for the district in 2015-16.


The largest increase in the budget, however, is a $694,000 increase in personnel salaries that covers raises required by employee contracts and includes a bump in pay for first-year teachers. Grenier has said that the district can accommodate the salary increases in its budget, but state policies are driving spending up.

On Tuesday night, Grenier said he sees more costs, especially teacher retirement, being shifted from the state to local districts in the years to come. That could make annual fights about the budget inevitable, he said.

“I see it again next year as the state continues to shift costs over to the local taxpayer. It’s going to be a hard thing to process all the time,” Grenier said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.