MADISON — Residents in School Administrative District 59 overwhelmingly supported a $9.6 million school budget at the polls Tuesday.

The budget is up less than one percent from the current budget and was given initial approval from residents in the single-town district on May 16. On Tuesday it was approved 108-35.

Residents also voted 79-63 to continue the two-step budget validation process for the next three years.

“The budget isn’t perfect, but it’s as good as we can hope for right now with everything going on in the town and with the mill,” said Superintendent Todd LeRoy, referencing the recent closure of the Madison Paper Industries mill, the town’s largest taxpayer.

The $9,631,669 budget is up less than one percent from the 2015-2016 school budget and includes an additional $585,000 in state funding that was secured through a last-minute piece of legislation providing additional support to communities affected by large drops in tax valuation from the loss of a single business or from a single taxpayer.

Madison Paper lost close to $150 million in taxable value in 2014, and with many employees already having been laid off as the mill closes, its value is expected to drop further.

At the polls Tuesday, residents were largely optimistic about the future of the town and some even said they felt the district could have increased spending despite the loss of Madison Paper.

“I think the budget is fair,” said resident Rob Dimock, 49. “It may not even be enough. I would like to see the Madison schools do more for the student body, but I understand why they need to keep it flat with the mill closing and the tax issues.”

Debbie Veneziano, an education technician at Madison Junior High School, also said she voted in favor of the budget though she would have liked to see the district budget for an additional middle school teacher. She said the school is currently down a seventh-grade teacher who was lost through attrition and has not been replaced.

“I love working here and I think the budget is awesome,” said Veneziano, 58. “I’m so glad people gave their approval. I know times are hard with the mill closing, but we need to keep our children’s education first.”

While there have been no staff or personnel cuts this year, LeRoy said the district was hoping to hire the additional teacher this year, but it would not have been feasible.

Another teacher, who did not want to give his name, said he felt the budget was “bare bones.”

“I have no problem with the budget,” the teacher said. “I think it’s fine, but we’ve been maintaining a low school budget now for years. We’re at the point now where we have to keep our heads about us and not panic.”

“The budget is no more stark than it’s been in the past,” LeRoy said. “There are a lot of people right now who are very scared and very angry about everything that’s taken place, and this certainly wasn’t the year we were going to go in and ask for a great deal and be successful in getting it passed.”

One resident who voted against the budget said he based his decision in part on the closure of the mill.

“We’ve lost a major employer in town and we need to spend within our means,” said Dan Low, 57. “I understand we have to educate our kids, but I also run a small business and I know that if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t spend it.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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