FARMINGTON — Voters at the Mt. Blue Regional School District budget meeting Tuesday voiced their objections to a bare-bones budget that did not cut administrative costs, so they reduced that cost by nearly $110,000. The vote was 86-84.
In the end, a $22.1 million budget passed and the $110,000 will be used for other educational purposes.
The motion to cut $109,964 from the $764,522 request for system administration was made by Farmington resident Sally Speich, who said the amount was the salary of Assistant Superintendent Susan Pratt, who is resigning to take a job as superintendent in the Livermore Falls School District.
“I want to put that money back into the general budget and put it into classrooms and pay for teachers and supplies,” Speich said before a crowd of 170 in the Mt. Blue High School gym.
A voice vote and a show of hands were both too close to call, and a written ballot was requested.
Superintendent Michael Cormier said Pratt’s salary came out of two separate articles in the budget warrant and only $35,241 of it was in Article 6, which voters cut from.
The cut will impact other positions in administration, he said.
Article 6 raises money for technology administration, the board of directors, and district administration. Specifically, Pratt is responsible for applying and administering $1 million in federal Title 1 grants and other grants that come into the district; she oversees all curriculum and assessment work; and she has been the point person for the two school construction projects at the Mallett School and Mt. Blue High School.
“It is unfortunate that the amount (cut) is not an accurate amount for that particular budget,” Cormier said.
Rather than change other line items, Cormier recommended voters keep all other articles as they were written and raise $22.1 million, keeping the $109,964 in reserve in the event state aid is again cut by the Legislature in January.
Last January, the district lost $330,000 in aid.
Speich said after the meeting that she was satisfied the money will remain in the budget and will act as a buffer if cuts to education are again a threat.
“They didn’t cut administration one iota. (School) consolidation was supposed to cut administrative costs and no one is doing that. All the cuts are coming out of the classroom. The administration should work harder and there needs to be across-the-board cuts,” she said.
The budget adopted Tuesday is $1.5 million less than last year and reflects a loss of $1.6 million in state aid. A referendum validation vote will be held in each district town Tuesday, May 18. The district includes Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld, and Wilton.