MADISON — Residents in School Administrative District 59 gave preliminary approval Monday night to a proposed $9.6 million school budget.

The proposed budget, which is up less then 1 percent from the current budget, includes the use of more then $1 million of the district’s reserve funds, some of which will be reimbursed to the district under new legislation that provides additional school funding for towns that have lost paper mills.

“We had hoped and prayed there would be some relief,” SAD 59 School Board Chairman Bruce Thebarge said Monday night. “Up until recently we didn’t know what, if anything, we would be getting back.”

About 40 people attended Monday’s budget validation meeting and approved each item in the 17-article warrant. The budget will now go to a referendum vote on Tuesday, May 24. Polls are open for voting on the budget from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Madison Town Office.

Superintendent Todd LeRoy did not attend Monday night’s budget meeting and no one else made any introductory remarks about the budget. That drew concern from resident Jeff Lloyd, who told board members they were doing a disservice by not explaining the budget items to attendees beforehand.

The Madison district is losing $486,614 in state funding next year, and officials in the district originally were faced with trying to raise the additional money from taxpayers, but decided instead to use reserves in order to prevent a tax increase, LeRoy said last week. The district has since learned that they will be receiving about $585,000 from the state under L.D. 1699, a late-session bill that was introduced by Gov. Paul LePage and sponsored by Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Skowhegan.

The legislation makes any town eligible for emergency education aid if the municipality’s state valuation – a key factor in calculating state education funding – declines by 4.5 percent because of property tax losses attributable to a single business or taxpayer.

“It was a gamble at first” to use carryover money to fund the budget, board member John Krasnavage said Monday night. “I think everyone is breathing easier now.”

The proposed 2016-2017 budget is up $69,936 from the current 2015-2016 budget. Included in the budget is a roughly $24,000 increase for district administration.

Thebarge said the increase will cover three months of pay for LeRoy, who resigned in March but will be staying with the district for an additional three months past the end of the school year as the district searches for a new superintendent. The increase will also pay for a part-time superintendent in 2016-2017.

Thebarge said Monday that the district plans to hire a part-time interim superintendent while considering what to do in the long-term.

“We felt we would have more options to see what is going on in the area and what we want to do that way,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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