FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 directors voted Tuesday to enter into a five-year lease-purchase agreement for three school buses at a principal amount of $289,614.

The figure does not include interest.

The agreement with Gorham Savings Leasing Group provides tax-exempt lease financing for the buses at an interest rate of 2.85 percent.

Two other banks were contacted, but only Androscoggin Bank returned a quote, which was 2.97 percent, Superintendent Tom Ward said.

Gorham Savings’ figures for this year’s payment for a 77-passenger school bus is $19,674, and the principal amount for the bus is $92,874. For two 84-passenger buses, this year’s payment is $41,678, and the principal amount for each bus is $98,370.

The district had budgeted $63,000 for this year’s payment on a lease-purchase agreement and it came in under budget at $61,352.

Support Services Director Jonathan Chalmers said the state reimburses about 70 percent of the cost of a bus.

In other business, the board approved a process and timeline for the 2017-18 budget.

Budget discussions will begin Jan. 24 with a preliminary budget being presented to the board. Budget meetings will be held on Jan. 31, Feb. 7, March 7, March 21, and April 4. The board’s regular meetings will also include budget talks Feb. 14, Feb. 28, March 14, March 28, April 11 and April 25. All meetings will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.

The district’s annual budget meeting vote will be held May 2 and the budget validation referendum will be held in each of the 10 towns on May 16.

The board is starting budget discussions a month early and will hold the budget votes a month earlier than they did this year.

The general consensus following last week’s board workshop was that the budget process model that will be used is to have the administrative team bring a proposed budget to the board, Ward said. The whole board will review the proposal line by line with any increases of a line by $500 or more to have a brief description of the increase, he said.

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