FARMINGTON — Voters in the nine towns in the Mt. Blue Regional School District went to the polls Tuesday and by a vote of 336 to 199, validated the $22.1 million budget approved last week at a district-wide budget meeting.
Three towns rejected the referendum question: Chesterville voted against it, 25 to 15; New Vineyard, 14 to 7; and Temple, 16 to 9.
Towns supporting the budget were Farmington, 133 to 51; Industry, 31 to 9; New Sharon, 41 to 25; Weld, 16 to 11; Wilton, 66 to 45; and Vienna, 18 to 3.
In spite of Tuesday’s passage of the budget, the school board still faces a dilemma.
The budget package included $203,000 in savings from wage freezes but one of the employee unions has rejected the request and another is still negotiating.
The board may have to look at mandatory furlough days, more cutbacks in programs and operations or layoffs, officials said.
The union representing the support staff of custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and education technicians voted not to forgo the pay raise in their contract that amounts to about $88,000.
The teachers’ union has not made a decision on a pay freeze that saves the district $123,000.
All district administrators have agreed to a salary freeze.
Further complicating the picture is a $110,000 cut in the $764,522 administration article that was passed at the district budget meeting last week and supported heavily by union members.
The cut, passed narrowly 86 to 84, was supposed to represent the salary and benefits package of the assistant superintendent, a job currently held by Susan Pratt.
Pratt is leaving the post in June to become superintendent of Regional School Unit 36 in Livermore Falls and the school board has already been discussing replacing that administrative job with a lower-paying position that dealt with curriculum, assessment and grants.
However, as Cormier explained to about 170 voters at the budget meeting, only $35,000 of the position’s salary came from the administration account. The rest came from the federal Title 1 grant program and from curriculum and assessment.
Neither of those articles were cut.
The board in the coming weeks will need to find ways to cut the administration budget, which covers technology administration, the board of directors as well as the business staff who manage payroll, human resources, accounts payable and run the central office.
“I am certainly pleased we have a budget and we will figure out how we will deal with the reductions. We will have to make adjustments,” Cormier said Tuesday night.
The budget reflects a decrease of about 6.5 percent over last year, largely due to the loss to $1.6 million in projected state aid. It eliminates 12 teaching positions and two support staff jobs as well as programs, supplies and operating costs across the board. Due to retirements and vacancies not being filled, only two teachers were laid off. The municipalities will also see their share of the school assessment increase by $184,240.
A second article on Tuesday’s ballot asking voters if they wanted to keep the budget validation vote process in place for another three years also passed. The article is required under state law.