Students from Oceanside High School in Rockland load on to buses after the first day of school Tuesday. Oceanside High School East is a new combined school with the 10th- through 12th-graders from the former Rockland District and Georges Valley high schools. Credit: Heather Steeves | BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine ― Regional School Unit 13’s proposed $31.2 million budget that includes layoffs and tax increases won narrow approval from voters in the five towns that make up the school district.

Two communities, Rockland and Cushing voted against the budget, with votes of 123-to-164, and 38-to-56, respectively. However, a large voter turnout in Thomaston helped to pass the budget, with the community supporting it by a vote of 357-to-305.

Residents in South Thomaston and Owls Head also voted in favor of the budget. Overall, the budget passed by an unofficial total vote of 608-to-590.

“We appreciate the result of the public vote and are grateful for their support of our schools and students,” RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald said in an email Wednesday morning.

District officials were faced with a difficult budget cycle for the 2019-2020 school year due to a combination of factors, including an unexpectedly large increase in special education funding.

With a depleted surplus account, the equivalent of 20 positions were cut across the district, either through attrition or layoffs, to help trim the budget ― which is up about 7 percent from last year.

Passage of the budget also means that each of the five towns that make up the district will see property taxes increase to support the budget.

Rockland’s tax contribution will increase by about $1.2 million, Thomaston’s contribution will increase by $550,000, Cushing’s contribution will increase by about $430,000, South Thomaston’s contribution will increase by about $436,000 and Owls Head’s contribution will increase by about $549,000.

Originally, the district was preparing to include money in the budget to repay $628,000 that the Maine Department of Education erroneously gave RSU 13 in its subsidy last year. A three-year repayment agreement reached last month with the state brought some budget relief.