CAPE ELIZABETH — Despite campaigning by opponents and fears that this year’s validation process could be as drawn out as last year’s, voters on Tuesday approved a $19.3 million school budget for fiscal 2010.

Late Tuesday night, the hand-counted numbers came back with 1,348, or 58 percent, in favor of the budget and 952 opposed. In an advisory question asking voters if the proposed budget was too high, too low or acceptable, a plurality – 44 percent – said it was too high. Most voters said it was either too low (27 percent) or acceptable (29 percent).

Town Clerk Deborah Lane was unable to provide the percentage of registered voters who went to the polls. She said the referendum drew 2,340 voters, including 400 absentee ballots. A year ago, a nearly identical turnout represented about 30 percent of the town’s voters.

This is the second year that towns have been required to hold public referendums on school budgets. Last year, Cape Elizabeth voted three times before a budget was finally approved in September.

The budget this year seemed to be a moving target, as state subsidy numbers fluctuated and school administrators were forced to adjust their spending plans. There was also a vocal opposition group, Cape For All, that distributed leaflets containing erroneous information about the Cape budget and those in some surrounding towns.

Combined with municipal and county taxes, the school budget approved Tuesday will add 11 cents to the property tax rate, a 0.6 percent increase over this year’s rate of $17.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or [email protected].

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s-ceschoolbudget.jpgSandi Dunham and Dave Griffin maintained an informational picket Tuesday in front of Cape Elizabeth High School as voters arrived to cast their ballots on the $19.3 million school budget adopted by the Town Council on April 30. Voters ultimately approved the spending plan, 1,348 to 952. (Rich Obrey photo)
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