NEWPORT, Maine — For the second time, voters have denied a loan request from Regional School Unit 19.
Voters in eight member towns rejected a $2.9 million loan request from RSU 19 by a vote of 1,290 to 1,103 on Tuesday night.
Corinna and Newport were the only towns to pass the measure. Corinna voted 207-163 to pass the loan and Newport voted 273-248. The other six towns that make up the district denied the loan — Dixmont 94-85, Etna 100-68, Hartland 170-86, Palmyra 200-163, Plymouth 119-94 and St. Albans 196-127.
Six votes from three towns were discounted.
“With all towns having reported in, RSU 19 voters appear to have rejected a loan appeal a second time. Results were quite close,” said RSU 19 Superintendent Gregory Potter in a statement on Tuesday night. “We will work to verify all results in order to make them official on Wednesday morning. A great deal of hard work has gone into the process to obtain public permission to secure a stabilization loan. A loan would have helped to rectify the very serious financial situation the district is facing.
“Today’s result is quite disappointing; however, the public has spoken, and I will plan to have further discussions with the RSU 19 Board of Directors to determine next steps,” he said.
Potter has said previously that he will present a loan request to voters for a third time if the second attempt failed. There will be no further reductions in the district’s budget, he said, so the amount will likely be the same.
Due to serious errors in previous budgets — including the fact that member towns were not billed for their obligations to the school district — RSU 19 has a $3.6 million shortfall this school year. New Superintendent Gregory Potter, who started work on July 2, immediately instituted a spending freeze and asked for an audit.
A $3.6 million loan request was denied by voters late last year. On Nov. 6, the referendum vote was denied 3,853 to 3,500.
The next day, Superintendent Gregory Potter cut $750,000 from the district’s budget.
The loan request was broken up into two parts, Potter said last week. Six towns would be responsible for a $1.5 million loan. Dixmont and Etna are excluded from that payment. All eight towns would be responsible for the $1.4 million loan. Both would be 10-year loans which Jerry Nault, RSU 19 business manager, said he figured at 3.5 percent interest.
On Jan. 8, voters in the eight towns voted 161-47 to place the loan question on Tuesday’s ballot.