PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Voters in SAD 1 have sent the school board back to the drawing board after rejecting the district’s nearly $23 million budget for 2009-10.

The referendum vote took place Tuesday and had “a very poor turnout,” Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said Thursday.

The vote was 282-160 in opposition to the budget.

The district consists of Presque Isle, Castle Hill, Chapman, Mapleton and Westfield.

“We were very disappointed,” Johnson said Thursday. “We have 9,600 registered voters in the district, and 97 percent of those people did not come out and vote.”

Johnson added that during the district budget hearing, voters approved the budget by a huge margin.

The district was hit with a $316,000 loss in state funding due to a spike in the local valuation of communities in the district.

Johnson noted that salaries and benefits made up the bulk of this year’s budget with the 382 employees receiving a 3 percent cost-of-living increase. The district did not have to shoulder an increase in its employees’ monthly medical premiums, but still had to eliminate 11 positions in administrative and support areas.

“The board worked very hard on the budget and believed that they had a solid, no frills budget,” said the superintendent.

Johnson said the school board met Wednesday evening to discuss the results of the vote and will have another meeting Tuesday, June 16, to take another look at the budget.

Another budget hearing and referendum vote will be scheduled in the near future, he said.