WALES — About 50 voters from the towns of Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus gave preliminary approval Wednesday night to an $18.73 million school budget.

That budget would fund the 2017-2018 school year in Regional School Unit 4, and is 0.37 percent lower than this year’s $18.8 million budget.

Several attendees at the Wednesday night meeting at Oak Hill High School asked questions about what’s funded in the new budget, which now will need to be approved in referendum votes by each RSU 4 town on June 13.

No one said they opposed particular items or the overall amount. That may have suggested a change from last year, when district voters rejected a school budget twice before approving the current one in September.

Litchfield voters, in particular, were frustrated by the budget process last year. They pay the greatest share of the district’s costs, even though Sabattus has more students, partly as a result of a state funding formula that gives greater weight to communities with high property tax valuations.

But at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, David Blocher, a member of Litchfield’s Budget Committee, said that the committee supports this year’s budget proposal.

According to that proposal, the district will not make any changes to its staffing or programs, outgoing Superintendent Jim Hodgkin has said. But the district was able to remove around $300,000 in spending because it made the final payment on a state-funded bond this year. There will be some unavoidable increases in oil prices, electricity prices and salaries, Hodgkin said.

The state also has pledged to provide an extra $105,000 in funding to the RSU 4 towns next year,

Last year, district voters rejected two budgets before approving the current one in September in a 361-227 vote.

It wasn’t the first time in recent years when voters have taken a few months to approve an RSU 4 budget. In 2015, voters in June defeated the original budget by about 30 votes, requiring another vote in July. In 2013, voters rejected the budget twice before giving it final approval in August of that year.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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