FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 voters Tuesday night cut nearly $1 million from the proposed budget of $33.63 million, reducing spending on special education and regular instruction.

The $32.74 million budget will go to voters in a validation referendum Sept. 12 in each of the 10 towns in the district.

More than 320 voters turned out for the meeting at the Mt. Blue Campus.

The proposed budget represented an $887,984 (2.71 percent) increase over last year.

Voters attempted to flat-fund the budget at $32.74 million, but because debt service was down $92,189, the spending proposal is less than the 2016-17 amount. 

Voters approved an amendment by a vote of 209-123 to decrease a $10.28 million budget for regular instruction by $74,508 to make it $10.21 million, a little more than last year. The main article then passed at $10.21 million by a vote of 233-93 followed by a loud round of applause.

Superintendent Tom Ward was asked what the effect would be if the budget were flat-funded. He said if $887,984 were cut, 16 positions would have to be eliminated and the board would have to determine which services would be provided and which would not.

When it came time to vote on special education and a motion was made to reduce it, Ward reminded voters that special education is regulated and the district is morally and legally obligated to provide services to students who are identified as needing special services. 

People spoke in favor of and against decreasing special education, with some of the comments being that services are critical to students, and it is up to the board to move the money around and provide services at last year’s amount.

A motion to amend a proposed $5.18 million special education article to $4.63 million, last year’s amount, was approved by a vote of 193-133. The main article passed at that amount.

A motion to take up Articles 3 through 9 together failed by a vote of 150-86 because a required two-thirds majority was not met, moderator Ron Aseltine said.

Voters approved a motion to take the same articles up at a flat-funded amount, except one that was decreased by about $9,000 to make up for Article 1, which was inadvertently not flat-funded.

School board Director Betsey Hyde of Temple asked voters to try to reach a compromise because flat-funding the budget would annihilate music and sports, cut teaching positions and raise kindergarten class sizes.

Voters spoke about the burden the increasing school budget is having on paying their taxes and on their fixed incomes.

They already had rejected two budget proposals in the validation referendum votes in June and August. Each reflected an increase of more than $1 million.

Following Tuesday’s vote, the district, as the law allows, is now operating on a $32.74 million budget. 

School board directors cut $292,414 from that proposal in August. The board also opted to use the full $729,000 in additional state funds that exceeded the governor’s proposal to reduce tax assessments to the towns, which resulted in an overall 2.06 percent decrease in projected tax assessments.

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RSU 9 validation referendum vote on Sept. 12

Chesterville: noon to 8 p.m., Town Office

Farmington: noon to 7 p.m., Community Center

Industry: 2 to 8 p.m., Town Office

New Sharon: noon to 6 p.m., Town Office

New Vineyard: 1 to 7 p.m., Smith Hall

Starks: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Community Center

Temple: 1 to 7 p.m., Town Hall

Vienna: 1 to 7 p.m., Fire Station

Weld: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Town Office

Wilton: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Town Office

Regional School Unit 9 voters attend a meeting to vote on a proposed $33.63 million budget Tuesday night at the Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington.

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