FAIRFIELD — For the second time in a matter of months, residents of School Administrative District 49’s four towns voted down a proposed budget, this time for $27.36 million.

And according to School Board Chair Shawn Knox, the reasons for the rejection are unclear.

“I’m not certain on the specific reasons the budget did not pass by majority,” Knox said. “The board will have a meeting on Monday to discuss the next steps.”

However, in a post on the Fairfield Community Facebook page made July 22, former school board member Shelley Rudnicki made her reasons for rejecting the budget abundantly clear and encouraged others to follow suit.

“Vote NO on #1 we can’t afford this and Vote Yes on #2 keep the referendum process,” Rudnicki posted. “The MSAD #49 School budget referendum vote is tomorrow July 23. Even though the budget failed the School Board decided to increase the budget by $200,000. This will be an even higher increase to your taxes. Just a reminder if this passes your property taxes will increase by $100 for a $100,000 home and this does not include the increase already voted and passed by the town budget that we know is coming.”

The rejected budget reflected a $56,477 decrease in spending from the out-of-balance budget that was overwhelmingly shot down 586-325 at the last referendum, on June 11, but a $214,616 increase from the original budget of $27.15 million.

Superintendent Reza Namin, whose resignation takes effect Aug. 2, declined to comment on the referendum results and directed all questions to Knox. Namin did state that after his fellowship at Harvard University is over on July 26, he will be taking the rest of the time until Aug. 2 as vacation. Namin said he wishes the best for the district.

Rudnicki originally voiced her complaints during a board budget meeting on July 9 when she failed to amend two of the budget’s articles.

Reza Namin, superintendent of School Administrative District 49, shown earlier this year at a school board meeting, has resigned after nearly a year on the job. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

The amendment attempt was seconded by fellow former board member Caroline Toto-Lawrence and proposed to reduce the budget by $300,000. After an extensive debate between board members, Rudnicki’s amendments failed and the articles passed as is.

Rudnicki added that the budgeted costs for the school in Albion was another reason residents should vote no in the referendum.

“Albion has 4 classes that have 12 students or less. I suggested combining two classes and that would still make the student to teacher ratio only 17 to 1 compared to Benton and Clinton which most classes are 20/25 to 1. It cost the District $5,000 more per student to educate a student in Albion then our other schools,” Rudnicki wrote. “Why are Fairfield, Clinton and Benton subsidizing Albion to the tune of $500,000? For 12 years I have been asking about this. Only to be told we need the points for a new school. Fairfield Primary is #1 on the list and Albion is #58. Albion needs to close and we need to stop listening to a few loud people and do what is right for the whole district not just a few in Albion.”

Shelley Rudnicki, chair of the MSAD 49 school board, at a recent school board meeting at Lawrence Middle School in Fairfield. Lawrence High School students staged a silent protest on Wednesday regarding restructuring supported by the school board that led to the resignation of popular Principal Mark Campbell. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Rudnicki recently resigned from her position on the board along with fellow members Caroline Toto-Lawrence and Tim Martin, siting harassment and an unproductive environment as the reason for their departure.

The referendum on July 23 yielded a total 290 “no” votes to 262 “yes” votes. Unofficial results in individual towns in SAD 49 were: Albion, 51 no, 42 yes; Benton, 49-61; Clinton, 50-62, 1 blank; and Fairfield, 140-97.

The resignations and budget rejections come after a year of turmoil for SAD 49 that included the fallout from Namin’s proposed restructuring plans, which resulted in $417,665 in buy-outs for former administrators.

SAD 49’s school board will meet 6 p.m. Monday at Lawrence Junior High School to discuss how to move forward with the budget.

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