FARMINGTON — Voters in Regional School Unit 9 on Tuesday finally approved a budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal school year. The fourth attempt, with 1,934 voting yes and 1,142 voting no, according to unofficial results, gave the green light to the district’s proposed $33.6 million budget.

The vote came after residents of the 10 towns comprising the school district voted the budget down three times. In the last vote, on Sept. 12, a proposed $32.7 million budget, which represented nearly $1 million in spending cuts, was voted down when 1,608 residents voted “yes” and 2,938 voted “no.”

On Tuesday night, RSU 9 Superintendent of Schools Tom Ward said he was “very pleased” with the turnout and the result of the vote.

“I thought it was a major vote of confidence of what we’re trying to do with the school budget and what we’re trying to do for kids,” Ward said after the unofficial results were in.

The region’s school board held another budget meeting in early October, then scheduled its fourth referendum for Tuesday. Discussions and voting on the budget have been contentious most of the way, as evidenced by residents decisively defeating the budget by more than 1,300 votes in the latest balloting. The defeated budget reflected a decrease of $980,197, the majority of which would come from special education funding.

The board had proposed a $33.6 million budget initially, but the district was implementing the $32.7 million budget, since it was implemented at the previous budget meeting. The $33.6 million budget was implemented at an Oct. 11 budget meeting before the school board. Voters approved the slashed budget at the Sept. 5 budget meeting, but it was defeated a week later in the districtwide referendum.

The first two times the budget was presented to voters, residents had expressed concerns over lack of communication over how the budget would be spent. The third time the budget failed, which was to the relief of district administrators, it represented a significant decrease in funding — $980,197 precisely — for students in the towns of Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

The approved budget represents a roughly 2.7 percent increase over the previous fiscal year’s budget. It also represents more than a 2 percent decrease in local property tax.

Turnout this time around was much smaller compared to last month. At the last referendum, more than 4,500 residents voted out across the 10 towns. On Tuesday, just over 3,000 residents came out to vote.

The unofficial results from the RSU 9 towns were:

• Chesterville, 131 no, 91 yes;

• Farmington, 821 yes, 342 no, one blank;

• Industry, 91 yes, 52 no;

• New Sharon, 159 no, 150 yes;

• New Vineyard, 81 no, 56 yes, one blank;

• Starks, 137 yes, 16 no;

• Temple, 76 yes, 43 no;

• Vienna, 87 yes, 27 no;

• Weld, 44 yes, 44 no;

• Wilton, 381 yes, 247 no.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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