FREEPORT — The $23.6 million Regional School Unit 5 budget was approved by voters in Freeport, Pownal and Durham on Tuesday, 2,345 to 1,607.

Voters in Pownal and Durham rejected the $23.6 million budget by 949 votes, but Freeport’s 1,674 yes votes pushed the budget’s approval. Residents also voted to continue the budget referendum process for another three years, 2,500 to 1,380.

This year’s referendum attracted about 38 percent of registered voters in the tree towns. Unofficial results on Tuesday night revealed about 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Freeport, 45 percent came out in Pownal and 33 percent participated in Durham.

Residents attended an annual budget meeting to approve the fiscal 2011 budget on May 26, where $245,000 was added to the bottom line. Although it remains up to the School Board to assign the funds, residents indicated the need for additional library books and teachers.

Although the $23.6 million budget will result in a tax increase of $164,000 to Freeport residents, voters supported the budget 1,674 to 658. Residents also voted 1,430 to 857 in favor of continuing the budget validation process. In response to an advisory question, 709 residents thought the budget was too high, 276 thought it was too low and 98 said it was adequate.

Pownal residents voted 403-156 against the school budget that will result in a tax increase of $18,000. In the advisory question, 402 residents said the budget was too high, 26 said it was too low and 87 said it was adequate. Pownal residents also voted 391-163 in favor of keeping the budget validation referendum.

In Durham, residents voted 546-515 against the school budget, which will increase town taxes by $3,600. Like Freeport and Pownal, Durham residents voted to continue the budget validation process, 687-362. There were 571 residents who indicated the budget was too  high, 43 said it was too low and 344 thought it was adequate.

RSU 5 Superintendent of Schools Shannon Welsh said she was very pleased with the voter turnout and the results.

“The board of directors is committed to using the funds in the budget efficiently and effectively to provide a strong academic program or our students,” she said. “We appreciate the support of our communities.”

Board Chairman Nelson Larkins echoed Welsh’s sentiments.

“We understand the concerns of the community regarding finances this year, and plan to use all the money budgeted wisely and effectively for the education of all the students in the community,” he said.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]

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