WALES — Voters in the three towns that make up Regional School Unit 4 will vote on a $18.8 million budget proposal later this month, having rejected an earlier proposal that was $100,000 higher.

Residents of Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales will vote July 26 on the new proposal, which received preliminary support at a district meeting held Wednesday night at Oak Hill High School — despite resistance from some Litchfield voters who attended the meeting.

Voters narrowly rejected the district’s first, $18.9 million budget proposal on June 14, forcing the RSU 4 school board to remove an additional $100,000 in costs. The new proposal is up 1.3 percent from the current year’s, whereas the one that was rejected in June was up 1.8 percent.

The school board was able to remove $30,000 from the budget proposal by not filling a vacant, part-time social studies teaching position, as well as an additional $29,000 by filling open positions with less experienced teachers who are lower on the pay scale.

The board also was able to find savings when several spending items that had been out to bid recently came back lower than expected, Superintendent James Hodgkin said Wednesday night.

The residents at the meeting ultimately approved the $18.8 million budget in a 28-9 vote, meaning it will head to voters July 26 in the three members towns.


But it’s unclear how the new proposal will fare at the polls this time, particularly in Litchfield, where some residents feel they owe a disproportionate share of the district tax burden and opposition to the original budget proposal was most pronounced in June.

The district rejected that original proposal in a 483-465 vote in June.

Litchfield was the only town in the district to cast more “no” than “yes” votes, with local voters rejecting it in a 285-227 vote.

This isn’t the first time in recent years when voters have rejected the RSU 4 budget. In 2015, voters in June defeated the original budget by about 30 votes, requiring another vote in July. And in 2013, the budget was rejected twice by voters before gaining final approval in August of that year.

On Wednesday night, a contingent of Litchfield voters continued to oppose the new budget proposal, even though it was $100,000 less.

Attendees cast informal, hand votes for almost every section of the budget. Toward the end of the meeting, though, they were asked to cast written ballots for a $2.6 million spending item, which covered a range of unspecified local costs, but also far exceeded — by about $2.3 million — a school funding model established by the state.


Members of the board proposed the $2.6 million to compensate for reductions in state aid, according to a warrant provided to voters at the meeting.

But David Blocher, a member of the Litchfield Budget Committee, made a motion to reduce that amount by an additional $100,000, to $2.5 million. That would have made the total reduction from the June budget proposal $200,000.

Blocher did not specify any school spending that he thought could be cut, he said, “But I do recommend, if you want a positive vote, I think $200,000 is more appropriate.”

But Robert English, a Wales resident who is chairman of the school board, argued against Blocher’s proposal, saying “$100,000 might not seem like much, but it doesn’t take very much at all for something to cost $100,000.”

He urged those present to support the work of the school board.

“I would encourage those present here today to defeat this motion and to approve the amount the school board worked on for months,” he said.


Blocher’s proposal never came up for a vote, as a Wales resident made a counterproposal to restore the $2.6 million that was recommended for the board. Voters approved that counterproposal, before voting 28-9 in favor of the recommended amount.

The Litchfield contingent still was not satisfied.

“I will do my best to convince the town of Litchfield to avoid this budget,” said another member of the Litchfield Budget Committee, Richard Lane, after voters approved the $18.8 million proposal as a whole and the meeting was wrapping up.

“That’s your prerogative,” English responded.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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