AUBURN — School referendum voters turned out Tuesday for a dead heat.
Voters will be heading back to the ballot boxes if the unofficial results for the school budget vote hold true. Acting City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire said the vote ended in a tie — with 349 residents on either side of the proposed $35.9 million budget for 2012-13.
"We don't have any answers at this point. This is kind of a first," Clements-Dallaire said late Tuesday night. "We'll need to go over the paperwork and make sure everything is added correctly."
Clements-Dallaire said if Wednesday's official results after reviewing the paperwork still result in a tie, it will likely mean a recount and possibly a second vote on the proposed budget.
The budget is slated to begin July 1 with $15.4 million coming from Auburn property taxpayers. That represents an increase of $844,925, which means a homeowner with property valued at $150,000 would pay $66 more a year in taxes, according to the Auburn School Department.
"I really believe that we put together a fiscally responsible budget," Superintendent Katy Grondin said Tuesday night. "The result of not getting increases over the last three years did make an impact. Taxes have gone up in Auburn, but not due to supporting education."
Clements-Dallaire and Grondin were surprised by the vote. The next steps for the district will be determined once the city clerk's office verifies the count and releases the official results. It could mean a recount of the votes, another election or a return to the referendum drawing board for the School Committee, which would start the whole process over again.
According to Grondin, of the 349 citizens who voted down the proposed budget, 43 responded in the follow-up question that they voted "no" because they wanted to see more money in the school budget.
"They have a right to say that they wanted more money in the school budget, so you have to appreciate that," Grondin said.
She previously said that the proposed spending plan maintains all student services and programs. The increase addresses only the most critical areas — including giving iPad tablet computers to this year's kindergarten students and adding two positions.
Grondin has said that Auburn spends $8,050 per pupil, below the state average of $9,623.