FAIRFIELD — A few dozen residents gathered at Lawrence Junior High School on Monday evening for School Administrative District 49’s first board meeting after the district budget failed to pass in referendum for a second time in two months.

Attendees and board members heard from a vocal resident who let them know her opinion about the $27.36 million budget that was rejected 290-262 by the residents of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield at the latest referendum on July 23.

Audrey Lee, of Benton, pleaded with the board to reconsider the areas of the budget they have prioritized in the past two budget proposals.

“All I’m asking is that the board looks closer at the budget,” Lee said. “The past two proposals had tax increases that people can’t afford. I know I can’t afford it. Some people might be getting raises, but I’m not. My husband isn’t. The latest proposal would add $100 to my bills.”

Lee added that the board should consider taking a look at the extracurricular budget as a place to reduce costs.

“I know that this is a touchy subject with people … and I know activities are important, but we need to prioritize education,” Lee said. “The district is not putting needs before the wants, and I’m not saying totally take away extracurriculars, but that’s an aspect of the budget I’m just asking to look at closer. For instance, why does there need to be seventh- and eighth-grade baseball teams? Can’t we combine them? That would cut the costs in half.”


In the last two proposed budgets, “other instruction,” which accounts for all athletics and extracurricular activities, was budgeted for $693,419. This covers all stipends for coaches and instructors, officials’ fees, supplies, uniforms, facility rental and transportation.

While extracurricular funds remained unchanged, the latest budget included increases of $118,133 for regular instruction, $200,234 for special education and $5,397 for staff and support. There were decreases of $59,012 for transportation and $50,136 for facilities management.

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

Lee suggested that the district turn more attention to fundraising in order to keep extracurricular activities afloat.

Board member Kara Kugelmeyer echoed Lee’s concerns and stressed to fellow board members the importance of due diligence on this third budget proposal.

“I’m certainly not against looking at changing or combining some extracurricular activities,” Kugelmeyer said. “I just want to make sure we’re looking under every rock and answering every question before we take a proposal back to the voters. … People are going to be looking for specific things and asking specific questions. I just want to make sure we’re not just cycling along.”


Kugelmeyer also said why she believes the budget failed for a second time.

“The reason the budget failed again is because there is this continuing question about what the budget will be adding to the taxpayers,” Kugelmeyer said. “People with fixed incomes that aren’t getting raised, it’s a concern.”

The board went on to discuss new dates for a budget approval meeting and referendum, but those dates of Aug. 29 and Sept. 12 remain tentative. A follow up meeting for further discussion on the budget has been scheduled for Monday.

Board Chairman Shawn Knox stated that, though the latest budget failed again, he feels more optimistic about the direction the board and district is moving in.

“The last budget didn’t pass by 28 votes whereas the first budget didn’t pass by a lot more than that,” Knox said. “There was a good turnout for a referendum that took place in the middle of July, and I guess, in that sense, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Superintendent Reza Namin, whose resignation takes effect Friday, declined to comment on the referendum results and directed all questions to Knox. Namin did not attend Monday evening’s meeting but stated in an email that he would be taking the rest of the time until Friday as vacation. Namin said he wishes the best for the district.

The board interviewed a candidate for the position of interim superintendent at Monday’s meeting. According to Knox, the board authorized him to “enter into contract pending successful negotiation with a candidate for the Interim Superintendent.” The name of the candidate has not been confirmed, but Knox stated he should have an update later in the week.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.