Sharon Baker and her son Dan Baker of Westbrook head for the ballot box Tuesday.
Residents vote at the Westbrook Community Center on Bridge Street. This year, the center is the polling location for Wards 1-4.
Poll workers await voters in Wards 1-4 at the Westbrook Community Center Tuesday.
Jo Ann Calderbank of Westbrook casts her vote on the school budget Tuesday.
WESTBROOK — Voters passed the $40.5 million school budget Tuesday, 439-254, with a voter turnout of 5.3%. Voters also agreed to continue holding the budget validation, 525-164.
While the turnout was higher than the 3.7% City Clerk Linda Holmes anticipated, the relatively small number of voters allowed election officials to practice a new consolidated polls setup in advance of the next two elections, which will also see Ward 1-4 voting at the Community Center.
The school budget had been revised from an initial proposal of $41.2 million, a cut that saw drew dissent from School Committee member Veronica Bates in April.
“Every year I sit in this room and we cut the budget. We never add,” Bates said at the time. “Yes, the budget goes up, but it goes up because we don’t have a choice. We are extremely frugal when it comes to adding anything. We justify it 1,000 times over and still get crucified.”
The School Committee’s finance committee cut more than $700,000 from Superintendent Peter Lancia’s request by refining budget projections, paying for some positions through grant funding, reducing the amount of new spending, eliminating one-year teaching positions that are no longer needed and suspending the marketing program at Westbrook Regional Vocations Center.
Resident Dan Baker favored continuing the validation vote on the school budget.
“It’s a good idea to vote on it so people have a say,” Baker said at the polls Tuesday. “That’s how a democracy works and how we can hold authority figures accountable.”
The referendum is a small piece of a larger democratic pie, Baker said, but the idea is important.
“People need to be involved, you need to know what’s going on and if there are problems, what they are and how to work on them,” he said.
Previously, Wards 2 and 3 voted at the Westbrook Armory, which is now unavailable “due to military necessity,” Holmes said.
Ward 5 still votes at the Pride’s Corner Congregational Church.
“The workflow is much better now as we are all consolidated,” said Chris Callaway, Ward 1 warden.
Before the new polling configuration can become permanent, the City Council must approve it. Holmes and her staff will bring the topic to the council at its meeting Monday.
“It was a pretty incredible to have such an easy smoothly flowing space, one of the election workers commented it was less stressful for workers and voters,” Holmes said.
Organized by last name, residents no longer have to remember their ward, and workers “do not have to take time to find that answer,” she said.
Chance Viles can be reached at 780-9092 or [email protected] Follow Chance on Twitter: @chanceviles.