NORTH ANSON — By just three votes in referendum on Tuesday, residents of the four towns of Anson-based Regional School Unit 74 rejected the proposed $10 million school budget for the coming year.

The final tally was 115 against the budget and 112 in favor of it. An emergency school board meeting has been scheduled for Thursday night to chart a course of action for a second vote.

The budget was approved in Anson 46-38 and in Solon 30-10. It was rejected in Embden 16-43 and in New Portland 20-24.

“The board will return to the drawing board immediately in order to try again for passage before July 1,” Superintendent Lyford Beverage said Wednesday.

Beverage said the April 27 district budget meeting went smoothly, with the final budget of $10,083,505 given approval by district voters. The new spending package is up $116,461 over the current budget approved by voters last May.

“The vote at the end was close on approval,” Beverage said of the April meeting. “It was a cordial meeting. It was successful. There was nothing out of place, nothing untoward. It just was a budget meeting.”

Beverage and former board Chairman Robert Demchak, of Anson, who is still on the RSU 74 board, said the low voter turnout could have been a factor contributing to the budget’s failure. Beverage said it would be difficult to know if any specific issue could be identified as the reason for the rejection.

“It’s 227 votes out of four towns. That’s not a significant turnout,” he said.

Beverage, a former superintendent in Madison, said he is new to the district and doesn’t have know history behind this year’s vote. He took over the job on an interim basis in August. Beverage replaced Superintendent Ken Coville, who left to become president and director of development for the Good Will-Hinckley organization in Fairfield.

Contacted by phone Wednesday, Demchak had one comment: “Low voter turnout.” He said he voted for the budget but would not venture a guess as to what other district residents had in mind in rejecting the proposed spending package.

Bobbi Sue Harrington, the board chairwoman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday on the budget vote. Tammy Murray, board vice chairwoman and administrator of the town of Anson, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Dwight Barron, a member of the SAD 74 school board representing Embden, also could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he told a reporter last year that he didn’t have an explanation for Embden residents’ rejection of the budget except that “they fight the budget every year because we’re being charged too much in taxes.”

The current budget was approved 129-106 in May 2016. Among the four towns in the district, it was approved 57-37 in Anson, 21-19 in New Portland and 35-8 in Solon; but it failed 16-42 in Embden.

Beverage said the district is taking delivery of two new school buses in the coming year, which contributed to the modest increase in the overall budget. He said salaries and health insurance premiums also are up, which is routine.

Beverage added that the district is employing a new English language arts curriculum in kindergarten through grade 8 and new computers to round out the increases in spending this coming budget year, which begins July 1.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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