BELFAST — Despite one of the poorest election turnouts in history, voters from SAD 34’s six communities have approved a 1997-98 budget calling for expenditures of $12.4 million.
The $12,421,151 spending package won approval in five of the district’s member towns. With four of Belfast’s five wards accounted for, the budget proposal had a 45-vote margin. The only ward not reporting was Ward 1.
Only in Belmont, where the measure ended in a dead heat with nine votes for each side, did voters turn their backs on the budget. Of Belmont’s 256 registered voters, only 18 took part in Tuesday’s election.
The same was true of Northport, which has more than 1,300 voters. Town Clerk James Cummings said just 28 bothered to take a stand on an issue which he said residents of his town consider a foregone conclusion. Cummings said voters are aware that if they rejected the budget, as has happened in the past, the school district eventually would win support at a public budget hearing. The budget passed by a vote of 23-5.
“It shows you that it doesn’t do much good to vote against it, so people have just decided to ignore it,” Cummings said.
Searsmont Town Clerk Claudia Mercer attributed he town’s low turnout to “disgraceful publicity by the school district.” Mercer said only 62 of the town’s 800 registered voters took part in the election. The budget passed by a vote of 40-22.
Morrill Town Clerk Nancy Hennington described the turnout in her town as the “lowest it’s ever been.” Of 363 registered voters, just 19 showed up. They approved the budget 14-5.
Voter turnout in Swanville was boosted by a local land use issue. Town Clerk Barbara Sholes reported that 157 of the town’s 837 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday. The budget passed 92-62.
On the other hand, the proposed Swanville subdivision ordinance went down to defeat by a vote of 103-54.
As a result of the voter support for the $12.4 million budget, there will be changes in the amount of locally raised taxes.
In Belfast, which contributes 52.9 percent of the budget, the tax levy will be $3,145,129, an increase of 8.7 percent, or $253,204 more than last year.
Belmont, which contributes 4.5 percent of the budget, will see its tax commitment rise to $270,504, an increase of 7.6 percent, or $28,069 more than last year.
Morrill, which contributes 4.2 percent of the budget, will see its tax commitment rise to $251,062, an increase of 8.1 percent, or $23,711 more than last year.
Northport, which contributes 19.6 percent of the budget, will see its tax commitment rise to $1,161,760, an increase of 8.4 percent, or $85,675 more than last year.
Searsmont, which contributes 10.4 percent of the budget, will see its tax commitment rise to $618,779, an increase of 10.1 percent, or $56,897 more than last year.
Swanville, which contributes 8.1 percent of the budget, will see its tax commitment rise to $483,808, an increase of 4.2 percent, or $51,074 more than last year.