WALES — Seventy voters Wednesday approved a budget of $18.79 million for Regional School Unit 4 for the fiscal year 2016-17. All 16 articles passed. 

Voters rejected the original budget of $18.9 million in June and a reduced budget of $18.8 was rejected in July. The current budget has been reduced by $7,000 as a result of a cut in Superintendent Jim Hodgkin’s salary.

Hodgkin opened the meeting by appealing to taxpayers to have a broader perspective on the budget.

“I understand this challenge,” he said. “Either take away from students or charge more for taxpayers, but the board believes that investing in students is a critical piece.”

School board Chairman Bisson said the board was diligent in researching data and where cuts could be made. “Educating leaders of tomorrow is the task today,” he said.

Robert Ayotte of Sabattus asked the board why it recommended $6.34 million — a 1.07 percent decrease from last year — for regular instruction when graduates “can’t even make change at McDonald’s.”

Sabattus Selectman Guy Desjardins responded to Ayotte’s statement.

‘My son graduated from Oak Hill (High School) and this school gave him his base,” Desjardins said. “He served in the U.S. Navy for 15 years and is now a hydraulics and electronics specialist. If you walked these halls and took a look at these students, you would see the number of successes far outweigh the negative. I take offense at this statement. Generally speaking, that the students leaving this school cannot read or write is BS, as far as I’m concerned.”

Nancy Provost, a board member from Sabattus, proclaimed herself to be the most frugal person on the board, a person who questions everything — and she urged voters to not question this amount.

“Accountability starts at home, for both students and parents and doesn’t solely rely on teachers and administrators,” she said. “The board is doing an excellent job trying to make a budget that works for the people and the students and we all need to be accountable.”

David Blocher of the Budget Committee in Litchfield questioned the board about the projected budget figures as compared to what was actually spent on each article last year. Business Manager Scott Eldridge provided those numbers, and in most cases the amount spent and the amount allocated was very similar.

Article 13 required a written ballot to raise and appropriate $2.59 million in additional local funds as required to fund the budget recommended by the board because of a decrease in state funding.

Wales Budget Committee member Isaiah Lary made a motion to decrease this amount to $2.28 million, and this was seconded. Nick Gayton of Sabattus made a motion for approving $1 more than the board recommended, and this was seconded. Blocher made a motion for a reduction in the original amount recommended by the board of $2.49 million, a decrease of $100,000, and this was seconded.

Blocher addressed the board and commended the credibility of the budget, but said he felt cutting $100,000 wouldn’t affect the students and would help the taxpayers. If an expense arises that isn’t covered, the worst case is asking the taxpayers for money, Blocher said.

Stephen Custer of Litchfield asked the board how often they have approached taxpayers after a budget has been established for an unexpected expense. Bob English, a board member from Wales, could not recall ever having done this.

Voters approved the motion by Gayton, $1 more than the board recommended. Lary asked for a per-capita breakdown in what this new amount meant for each town, which revealed an increase of 49 cents for Litchfield, 29 cents for Sabattus, and 22 cents for Wales.

In an effort to end the controversy over $1, Jim Waterman of Sabattus approached the moderator and donated a dollar.

RSU 4 budget referendum

Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, at town offices in Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales.

Voters are invited to cast their votes beginning today at their town offices. Absentee ballots are also available.


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