School Administrative District 49 has a new budget for voters to consider.

The SAD 49 school board approved a $27.36 million spending plan for the 2019-2020 school year at its district budget meeting Tuesday evening.

According to board Chairman Shawn Knox, the new proposed budget reflects a $56,477 spending decrease from the version rejected by voters in a June 11 referendum, but a $214,616 spending increase from the originally proposed $27.15 million plan.

“Basically, after that budget did not pass, the board starts back from the original budget,” Knox said. “From the original budget, the board defined the specific positions to add back in … and the result is the revised budget.”

Superintendent Reza Namin explained that the changes to the budget include adding one reading-recovery position and special education position at Lawrence High School, and using the eliminated director of operations position to offset the costs.

The revised budget includes increases of $118,133 for regular instruction, $200,234 for special education and $5,397 for staff and support. There are decreases of $59,012 for transportation and $50,136 for facilities management.

However, before the board could approve the new budget, board member Shelley Rudnicki moved to amend both the regular instruction and special education articles.

Rudnicki’s amendment attempt was seconded by fellow board member Caroline Toto-Lawrence and proposed to reduce the budget for regular instruction by $300,000 and special education by $200,000.

According to Stewart Kinley, a former school board member who served for a total of 26 years, when fellow board members questioned Rudnicki’s reasoning, she gave no other answer than that she thought the budget for those articles were “too high.”

“There was an extended debate between the board and Rudnicki on why she wanted to amend those articles,” Kinley said. “But she just stuck to saying she thought the budget was too high; she didn’t state anything else.”

Rudnicki’s amendments ultimately failed and the budget articles were passed as is.

Kinley claimed that though the community turnout for the meeting was underwhelming, there was vocal approval of the new budget by the audience.

“This meeting was very poorly advertised. When you subtract the 11 board members, there was probably only 40 people in the audience,” Kinley said. “But regardless, there was extensive discussion among attendees about how people were more in favor of this revised budget than the last one. I think the last budget was defeated because it didn’t include critical programs like reading recovery and math tutors, so now that the new one includes those things people approve of it.”

A validation referendum on the new budget is scheduled for July 23.

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