Record turnout at budget meeting

The annual School District Meeting on Tuesday night was like a foreclosure auction: the School Board offered what it deemed a rock-bottom price to operate the district next year, and taxpayers countered with a succession of bids to lower the ante.

In the end, following several hours of discussion and waiting lines for a turn at the microphone, a record turnout cut the operating budget to $8.46 million, a trim of $5,472 from the current tally and a quarter-million dollars below what the School Board wanted.

The budget was approved 140-121.

A record turnout of 304 voters – more than three times the number that attended the school district meeting last year – filled the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy gymnasium.

Several officials attributed the crowd to the uncertain economy and the distribution of the annual town report to every home, by mail.

Overall they adopted a school district spending package, including warrant articles, that increases spending next year by 0.9 percent.

That includes four monetary warrant articles: $60,645 for the second year of the support staff contract; $10,000 for a maintenance expendable trust; $1,700 for Alert Now, a reverse 911 system; and $9,000 for one-time start-up costs for an in-district special education pre-school program.