Regional School Unit 56 Director Samantha Noyes of Dixfield, right, spoke in favor of  asking voters to approve a spending plan for 2019-20 that failed July 30. Seated near her is Director Angela Cushman, William Hine and Deb Mooney, all of Peru. Secretary of the school board Cathy Arsenault is seated by Mooney. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Directors of Regional School Unit 56 voted 8-1 Tuesday night to keep the 5% budget increase for the 2019-20 school year even though it failed by 13 votes in a referendum last week.

The $12.9 million spending plan was rejected July 30 by voters in Peru and Carthage, but passed in Canton and Dixfield. It was the district’s second attempt to pass a budget.

The first spending plan of $13.27 million failed June 11. It represented an 8% increase to the 2018-19 budget.

Director William Hine of Peru chose to abstain from the vote Tuesday, while Dixfield Directors Deb Mooney, Barry Prescott, Angela Varnum, Samantha Noyes and Barbara Chow approved the 5% increase, along with Peru Director Angela Cushman and Canton Directors Natalie Sneller and Carl Lueders.

The board is scheduled to vote once more on the proposed budget when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at T.W. Kelley Middle School in Dixfield. A budget hearing and validation is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at Dirigo High School, followed by a Sept. 17 referendum in the four RSU 56 towns.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Pam Doyen presented the board with possible cuts that might be needed to reduce the proposed budget increase from 5% to 4.75% and to 3.75%, but directors chose to stick with the $12.9 million spending plan.

“Our schools are so, so important,” Dixfield Director Samantha Noyes said. “We can’t take any more from our schools. We have to move forward. We have to look for ways to be able to grow. We just can’t continue to slash, slash, slash.”

Added Dixfield Director Barry Prescott, “I don’t think continuing to cut the budget is what is in the best interest of the students and the educational programs.”

Board Director William Hine of Peru, who was elected in June, told the board it would not “find any more positive votes in Peru this time around (with a 5% increase).” He proposed the board go with a 4.5% increase.

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