HOULTON, Maine — After twice rejecting the budget, voters in RSU 29 on Aug. 27 finally passed a $12.75 million budget for the district for the 2014-15 school year during a referendum vote at the polls.
RSU 29 consists of the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello.
The budget passed by just 17 votes, with 304 residents from the member communities voting in favor and 287 opposed, according to figures collected from the various town offices. In Hammond, 13 voters were in favor and none were opposed, while in Houlton, 243 cast ballots in favor with 178 opposed. In Littleton, 26 voted for the budget and 46 were against its passage. In neighboring Monticello, 22 were in favor and 63 were against.
Residents of those towns first rejected a $12.9 million budget presented to them at referendum in June by a vote of 450 to 318. In July, the validation vote was 138 to 123 against a revised $12.75 million proposal.
The school board sent an unchanged $12.75 million budget back to voters on Aug. 27.
Superintendent Mike Hammer explained in a recent interview that the school board opted not to make any additional cuts to the budget presented in July because it already was “bare bones.”
He believed that the second proposal was defeated because the district simply had not done a good job of getting the word out about the budget and the validation vote. He said the board members also felt that a lot of voters may have been away on vacation, at their camps or had simply forgotten to come to the polls.
School started on Tuesday for elementary and middle school students in RSU 29. This is the first year that children in the district are not attending the Wellington School in Monticello, which was closed because of declining enrollment, the age of the building and escalating costs. Closing the school, which at last count served 66 students in pre-kindergarten through third-grade, is expected to save the district $109,000 per year.
RSU 29 will receive $9,240,465 from the state next year, an increase of $423,224 over the previous year. The required local share, which is the amount the district must raise to receive those state funds, is $3,192,008, an increase of $84,164 over last year.
The budget reflected an increase in spending of 1.78 percent over the previous year.