FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 directors approved a $32.97 million budget this week, a 2.9 percent increase over last year’s.

The budget goes to a public hearing in May and then before voters in the district’s 10 towns in June.

The budget increase is just below the 3 percent increase maximum that the Board of Directors was shooting for throughout the budget process. They approved the budget Tuesday 13-1, with two directors absent from the meeting.

The approved budget total comes after the board asked administrators to cut $500,000 from the original proposed budget. On Tuesday, administrators brought back $499,215 in cuts, which would have represented a 3.01 percent increase.

Superintendent Tom Ward said the board really wanted to bring the budget under a 3 percent increase, so members voted to set the budget at $32,973,180. Administrators now will have to find an additional $36,000 to cut from budget requests before the budget advances to a public hearing in May.

Ward said he is pleased with the final budget, which he said achieves the district’s goal of the budget having a minimal increase on the towns it serves while still meeting the needs of the district’s students.

Voters rejected last year’s budget initially, and the board had to cut an additional $200,000 before a $32.04 million package was approved at a second districtwide meeting in July.

Ward said a big factor in keeping the budget increase below 3 percent was an increase in revenue received by the district this year. RSU 9 received an additional $250,000 from the state and will use $500,000 of carryover money derived from freezing the budget over the last two years.

“What really helped was that this was our best revenue year that we have had in a number of years,” Ward said.

Ward added that this was the first year since he became superintendent that the state was able to increase its contribution. He has been superintendent for three years.

In addition, the district is expected to get $300,000 in special education reimbursement from MaineCare.

After the budget was frozen in January because of unexpected special education costs, the district established a part-time position for setting up MaineCare billing. Through billing MaineCare, the district is able to recover some of the money it spends on special education.

In the cuts presented to and approved by the board Tuesday, several education technician positions and teaching positions were eliminated; however, Ward said the elimination of the positions will not result in a loss of jobs, as there are other openings in the district that the employees will be moved to.

The budget represents an overall decrease of $26,808 for the district’s 10 towns, with increases in some towns’ contributions and decreases in others. Individually, the budget affects town contributions by an increase of $814 for Chesterville, a decrease of $14,636 for Farmington, an increase of $2,702 for Industry, an decrease of $9,014 for New Sharon, an increase of $11,508 for New Vineyard, a $23,029 increase for Starks, a decrease of $10,283 for Temple, an increase of $6,787 for Vienna, an increase of $37,176 for Weld, and a decrease of $74,891 for Wilton.

This year, the district conducted the budget process differently, with the entire board of directors being involved in the budget process rather than just an ad hoc budget committee. In addition, informational budget meetings were held in New Sharon, Wilton and Farmington to brief district residents on the budget process and gather feedback.

Ward said the informational meetings were positive for the budget process.

“Those informational meetings were very helpful. … We were very pleased with the turnout and we heard our communities very clearly about what their feelings were and what their needs are,” Ward said.

The board will set a date for the public hearing at its meeting Tuesday. The date for the June referendum also has yet to be set.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate