FAIRFIELD — Residents of the local school district on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a $27.42 million school budget that includes greater expenses than it does revenue to fund the spending.

The budget failed by an overall vote of 586 “no” votes to 325 “yes” votes. Results in individual towns in School Administrative District 49 were: Albion, 91 no, 25 yes; Benton, 70-38; Clinton, 243-201; and Fairfield, 182-61.

“We appreciate and recognize the voters’ voices,” Superintendent Reza Namin said in an email Wednesday.

The rejection means the budget will go back to the beginning of the two-step budget approval process, which includes a public budget warrant meeting followed by a referendum.

If a budget is not adopted by July 1, the district will operate on an interim budget, which is the last budget approved at a budget meeting and submitted to referendum.

The failure to pass a budget comes amid difficult times for the school district related largely to a controversial administrative restructuring plan that resulted in $417,665 in buy-outs for former administrators in April and calls for the superintendent’s resignation.

At the May budget meeting, residents in the district added an additional $271,093 into the district’s expense budget but failed to raise taxes to pay for the increase.

Several residents at that meeting asked questions and spoke critically of the restructuring plan and the spending on buyouts for the former administrators.

Volunteers and voters work in the dark to cast ballots after a power outage at a voting station at the Fairfield Community Building on Tuesday. The SAD 49 school district budget was on the ballot. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

They instructed the board to increase the amount of spending on regular instruction — things such as teacher salaries, books and supplies used by students — by $366,108 and to decrease spending on administration by $95,014.

Former school board Chairman Steve Grenier, who proposed the changes, said the goal was to counteract a proposed $95,000 cut to regular instruction and bring the budget for that department up to a 2.47% increase, roughly the same as the overall budget increase.

Grenier also sought to decrease spending in the administration’s budget, which includes a $19,733 raise for the director of business and finance.

At the May meeting, some residents also expressed concerns about a raise for the assistant superintendent, but Namin said at the time the increase for her pay only appeared large in some places in the budget because her salary is divided up in different areas.

The total salary for the assistant superintendent is currently $110,309 and is budgeted for $114,721 for next year.

Had the budget passed, Shaun Knox, chairman of the district school board, said Monday the board would have had to propose cuts to bring the revenue into line with expenses.

A second question on Tuesday’s ballot also asked residents if they want to continue the two-step budget validation process for an additional three years.

That question was approved by an overall vote of 293 yes-173 no in three towns. Results in each were: Albion, 64-51 and one blank; Benton, 71-38; and Fairfield, 158-84 and one blank. Officials in Clinton said the question was not voted on there.

 

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