Residents from Middlefield and Durham comfortably passed Regional School District 13’s budget proposal, but the district’s proposed capital improvement plan was approved by a margin of only 64 votes.
The $36.8 million budget for fiscal year 2019-20 passed Tuesday 591 to 362. The $6.9 million capital plan passed 511 to 447.
“I was pleased with the outcome of the referendum and am happy to move forward with the June budget,” board chairman Bob Moore said.
Voter turnout was low: less than 8 percent in Middlefield and 13 percent in Durham.
Durham Democratic Registrar of Voters Karen Cheney said turnout has been less than 20 or 30 percent of voters in recent years. Last year’s turnout was around 12 percent in Durham.
“People have been fairly content in recent years and that’s pretty much what you’re seeing for voter turnout,” Cheney said Tuesday.
She said the registrars only ordered ballots for about 20 percent turnout, expecting it to be low but preparing for the possibility that the bonding question for capital improvement might draw more voters.
This year, about 691 Durham residents voted out of 5,194 eligible voters, and only about 270 of Middlefield’s 3,390 voters turned out.
Durham resident Leslie Bulion voted in favor of both proposals and was particularly glad to see the Latin program put back into the budget after original drafts proposed phasing out the program. She saw the capital improvement plan as necessary.
“We have to maintain the buildings, and we have to maintain equipment and make sure the kids have what they need, so that costs money. I think the budget was responsible,” Bulion said.
With the budget approved, Moore said he’s looking forward to having the board start on the capital improvement projects, which will be spearheaded by the board’s newly-formed building committee.
Moore said the low turnout of voters wasn’t very surprising. “I think if we had proposed an increase it would have had been more,” he said.
Moore said this year’s budget was a unique process considering the balancing of state reductions in the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Grant and savings from declining enrollment and renegotiation of health care benefits.
Moore said this approved budget is about a $1 million reduction compared to the gross budget five years ago. “I think that’s one of the highest accomplishments of this administration,” he said.