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Preston – Voters approved a reduced school budget at Tuesday’s second referendum, 209 to 149, with a low, 11.2 percent voter turnout.
Voters approved the $10.85 million budget set by the Board of Finance following the May 13 referendum defeat. The finance board had cut $342,090 from the budget, proposing a 2.1 percent increase over this year’s budget.
In two advisory questions added to the referendum ballot, voters — by a 175 to 126 tally — said the school budget is too high, and — in a 210 to 94 vote — said the budget is too low.
Board of Education Chairwoman Jan Clancy said after the vote that she remains disappointed at the steep cut the Board of Finance made to the budget, and that voters approved the cut. She said she was hoping residents would vote down the budget and ask that some money be restored to the schools.
The Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting for June 24, tentatively set for 8 p.m., to incorporate the cuts into the final budget.
Throughout the budget process, the most controversial topic was the board’s plan to launch a full-day preschool program at an estimated cost of $185,000. Some finance board members opposed the plan, while Chairman Jerry Grabarek said he would have supported starting with a half-day preschool program.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Superintendent John Welch said he would recommend eliminating the proposed preschool program, along with two kindergarten classroom assistants that the Board of Education asked be added to next year’s budget.
One teaching position also might have to be eliminated in the budget cuts. Welch said fifth-grade enrollment has declined, and the number of classes would be reduced from three to two, with a teacher expected to be moved to the preschool program. Welch said it’s possible the position could be absorbed through a retirement.