GARDINER — The budget proposed and approved by School Administrative District 11 residents is the budget that goes before all voters in the Gardiner-area school district on June 14.

About 90 people turned out for a districtwide vote Wednesday at the Gardiner Area High School gymnasium to review and vote on a proposed spending plan of $23.9 million, which reflects a nearly 5 percent increase in spending over the current year. More than half of that money, $12.7 million, comes from state subsidy. The local share, which is divided among the district’s four municipalities, is nearly $9.6 million. Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner make up SAD 11.

The district administrators and board members fielded questions about staffing levels, insurance and policies on dealing with chronic truancy.

A large majority of voters supported the budget as written, which maintains the music program and adds girls volleyball as a varsity sport. The budget also adds nine and a half positions to address effects on students from families caught up in the state’s opioid crisis. Those positions include a full-time social worker — a position that was cut several years ago — and additional teaching staff in mathematics and science as well as staff members for a behavioral program for students through the second grade.

“That’s to prevent our teachers from being bitten or urinated on,” Eric Jermyn, chairman of the district board’s finance committee, in describing some of the issues district teachers and staff face. But several taxpayers took issue with some of the decisions that contributed to the budget.

Robin Spencer, of A-COPI, owns several buildings in Gardiner but is not a resident. He said he was concerned that his company had been cut out of the bidding process for photocopiers; he was invited to bring his concerns to a school board finance committee meeting.

George Trask, a Gardiner resident, took issue with the spending on transportation.

“Doesn’t anyone walk to school anymore? Maybe this is why we have so many fat kids,” he said.

In sharp contrast to his harsh criticism two weeks ago of the Gardiner City Council and its proposed budget, he said, “I see the city of Gardiner cutting everything they can from their budget and now you are adding here. The Gardiner City Council is trying to build community and you are trying to drive people away.”

District Superintendent Patricia Hopkins said the increase in the transportation budget line was a result of the purchase of a handicapped-accessible bus.

In a ballot vote, those at the meeting voted 84-6 appropriate additional local funds in the amount of $2,403,429.38, which exceeds the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model by nearly $1.7 million to fund the budget proposed by the school board.

Board officials say the district’s per-pupil cost of $10,139 is among the lowest when compared to districts of similar size across the region, It’s about $2,000 less than the state average per pupil costs.

Every three years, voters in the school district have the chance to change the budget’s final vote to the districtwide budget meeting without sending the spending plan to all voters in a referendum voted.

Jermyn said the board unanimously voted to keep the approval process as it is now, with the referendum vote.

“It’s more inclusive,” he said. When that issue goes before the voters, he said he hoped they would vote to keep the process the same,

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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