FAIRFIELD — Voters from the four towns that make up Maine School Administrative District 49 gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the district’s $29.6 million budget for 2023-24, a 4.8% increase to current spending, even as the district anticipates cutting 11 positions.

Almost 50 residents from Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield gathered at the Lawrence High School gymnasium to discuss and vote on the 18 articles that make up the budget. Now that the articles have been approved, the budget goes to a referendum in the four towns, scheduled for June 13.

The meeting moved fairly quickly, although there was discussion of the district’s collective bargaining agreement with educational technicians, which is still in negotiations. Several residents expressed frustration about voting on funding when the contract and related components, such as salaries and benefits, have yet to be finalized.

The budget totals $29,625,431, an increase of about $1.3 million to the 2022-23 spending plan. Superintendent Roberta Hersom said previously the original budget proposal was almost $2 million more, an 11% increase to current spending, but district officials worked to reduce the increase.

The budget includes cutting 11 positions, the bulk of which are vacant because the district has been unable to hire to fill them. And some of the positions might be vacant in the fall as staff members resign or retire.

Hersom said she could not say how many currently filled positions might be cut, but she expects the number to be low. She said decisions would be based on seniority, and staff members would be notified after the June referendum.


While the overall increase to the budget is 4.8%, the amount to be raised by each town is different because it depends on state valuation numbers. The total amount to be raised by the four towns has increased from about $10 million last year to $11.4 million.

Albion’s share is about $1.6 million, up about $200,000. Benton and Clinton’s shares are each about $2.5 million, a $300,000 increase for each town. And Fairfield’s share is $4.6 million, with the largest increase of about $600,000.

Each town holds a separate referendum for the budget, and it must pass based on a majority of all district voters, not by individual towns. If the spending package is rejected by voters, the approval process would begin again.

Voters have rejected the district’s budget before. In 2019, residents voted down the budget twice before passing a third version in September of that year.

Several Maine school districts, including MSAD 49, recently learned they will receive more state funding than expected for the 2023-24 school year because of an error in the initial funding allocation. MSAD 49 is set to receive about $329,000 more than originally expected.

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