HOULTON, Maine — Voters in all four towns of SAD 29 passed the district’s more than $11.5 million budget Tuesday evening after a second round of voting on the fiscal note.
The final tally was 372-293 in favor of the budget.
The district consists of the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello and serves approximately 1,300 students.
This was the second time taxpayers in SAD 29 voted on the $11.5 million budget. A small number of voters opposed the first note by a vote of 80-71.
After the budget was rejected, the school board opted not to change it. Superintendent Steve Fitzpatrick defended the decision, saying the board “felt a responsibility to students” to continue to provide them with a quality education.
Instead of amending the budget, the board launched a campaign to educate taxpayers about it. Fitzpatrick and the board hosted a question-and-answer period before the last budget hearing to address any issues that came up.
This year’s budget increased $271,384 over the 2008-09 fiscal forecast.
Houlton voters approved the budget 289-234, while voters in Littleton passed it by a vote of 43-33.
In Monticello, it was approved 33-23, and Hammond taxpayers approved it by 7-3.
Fitzpatrick attributed the increases in part to contracts being renegotiated this year and in 2010. Energy costs and maintenance fees for the district’s bus fleet also were a factor.
The superintendent maintained that the district has flat-funded the budget at $11.2 million for the past two years with cuts and cost-saving measures. He added that when the district did increase the local assessment for education to communities, the increase was less than the rate of inflation.
In Houlton, Hammond and Monticello this year, the local assessment for education dropped. Littleton was the only town in SAD 29 with an increase, which Fitzpatrick attributed to a jump in the town’s valuation. Houlton’s assessment decreased by $21,733 this year, while Hammond’s decreased by approximately $7,000. The assessment to Monticello dropped by more than $4,000.
Fitzpatrick said Wednesday afternoon that he was pleased the budget passed, adding that he was “extremely appreciative” of all the hard work put forth by the board and others involved in the budget process.