LISBON — Voters on Tuesday rejected a $14.88 million school budget, 141-473.
It was the second time voters failed to pass a spending plan for 2015-16.
A budget of $14.93 million was rejected in June, with voters saying it was too low.
Following the town’s charter, the School Department will operate off the last budget approved by the Town Council, which is $14.88 million.
Upon hearing the results of the vote, School Committee Chairwoman Traci Austin said, “It looks like voters are supporting the proposed School Committee budget.”
Although only 9.5 percent of registered voters turned out to vote, Austin said, “Everyone has the same opportunity to come out and voice their opinions.
“The School Committee will meet again and bring either the same budget or a new budget to the Town Council,” she said.
“I think we have come in with a reasonable budget — a zero percent increase. I don’t anticipate changing” my opinion, Austin said.
However, if the School Committee presents a different budget, it will have to have another public hearing, Councilor Dillon Pesce said, adding that there isn’t time before taxes are committed. The Town Council plans to commit taxes on Aug. 25, he said.
“At the end of the day, the budget can’t be any higher than what was voted on (Tuesday),” because once taxes are committed, the budget can’t go higher — only lower.
“When we commit taxes, if we don’t have an approved budget, it commits off the budget that was last approved by the Town Council,” Pesce said.
The council chose not to postpone committing taxes, Pesce said. “We just don’t have enough money in escrow,” he said. “We have to continue to operate. Financially, we can’t put it off.”
The decision “is not something we take lightly,” he said.
“The School Committee needs to decide what it’s going to do,” Pesce said. “They will have to go through the budget hard with a fine-toothed comb and decide what to do.”
In January, the Town Council told the School Committee it wanted a budget $600,000 lower than the previous year. The School Committee didn’t heed the warning and presented a flat-funded budget.
In June, voters rejected a budget of $14.93 million, saying it was “too low” according to a nonbinding question on the warrant.
The budget approved by the Town Council on July 21, however, was $48,809 less than the budget that went to referendum in June due to an increase in state funding.