MINOT — RSU 16’s proposed $18.1 million budget for 2011-12 withstood its first test at Wednesday night’s regionwide meeting.

The attempt to pass a “no tax increase” budget failed when efforts to cut $350,000 for regular classroom education came out on the short end of a 128-124 written ballot vote.

Debate on Steve Robinson’s amendment, intended to be the first of several that would reduce the overall budget by $500,000, lasted an hour and a half, with repeated calls for a budget that would do more with less. That amount would have meant no property tax increase.

In the end, the voice that voters listened to was Jack Conway’s with his plea that the proposed budget was reasonable and succeeded in balancing the needs of the community with the needs of the children of the community.

“Just looking at taxes is very shortsighted,” Conway said. “If we don’t spend now to educate our children well, they will pay for all their future.”

Efforts to trim the budget by lesser amounts also failed.

Mechanic Falls’ Bonnie Payette noted that the only cut that the School Committee managed to make to the budget as presented two weeks ago, was the $11,500 by halving the stipends they themselves received.

Payette suggested all stipends, contained in another portion of the budget, should also be cut in half. That measure would mirror the School Committee’s symbolic gesture and would result in a savings of about $80,000.

Payette’s motion failed on a close show of hands.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Moderator Colleen Quint reminded attendees that this was the first of two steps in the approval process.

The $18.1 million budget they passed will go to a validation vote at customary polling places in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 17.