After a review of proper parliamentary procedure, RSU 20 board members who attended a special meeting April 29 — a meeting that had been called to give the board another chance to approve a budget for the coming school year — learned that they had already done just that, two days earlier.

At its April 27 meeting the board had voted 7-5, with three members abstaining, in favor of approving the proposed $32.3 million budget for the 2010-2011 school year and sending it to voters in June.

According to the agenda that was posted for the April 29 meeting, it was “reported that the motion [at the April 27 meeting] failed, based on the weighted vote count.”

The RSU 20 board uses a weighted-vote method of voting, meaning the individual vote of one board member may be worth more or less than the individual vote of another board member, depending on what communities each is from. The weighted votes correlate directly to the population of each community in the nine-town district.

Belfast, for example, has a population of 6,803 people. Its six members on the RSU board each have 1,134 weighted votes, for a total of 6,804. Five of the nine towns have one board member each, whose weighted votes are exactly the same as the population of their respective towns.

Frankfort, for example, has a population of 1,052, and its lone board member has exactly that many weighted votes.

In terms of weighted votes, Mailloux said, the split on the April 27 budget vote was 7,310 in favor to 5,339 opposed, with 3,156 falling into the abstain category.

It was believed at that time that the vote had failed, according to Superintendent Bruce Mailloux, because the “yes” vote did not have a majority of the weighted votes present. With 15,805 weighted votes present, a majority would have been anything higher than 7,903.

However, a closer look at the situation revealed that the weighted votes of those who had abstained should not have been factored in. Board policy BEDD, titled “Rules of Order,” states: “A motion will be adopted or carried if it receives a majority of the weighted vote of those present and voting. Abstentions are considered to be acquiescence to the vote of the majority.”

Furthermore, the board has a specific policy dealing with abstentions. That policy states, “An abstention is to be considered a non-expression of a preference or choice, and cannot be considered as a vote.”

With the weighted votes of the abstaining board members out of the picture, that brought the total number of weighted votes to be considered to 12,649, meaning 6,325 or more would be needed to constitute a majority.

With the question of the vote on the overall budget resolved, board members also took time at the April 29 meeting to approve the adult education budget for the coming year.

There had been some discussion at the April 27 meeting of revisiting specific budget items that had already been approved and possibly making changes to them, according to Mailloux. Although the April 29 agenda made allowances for such review and revision, Mailloux said no one on the board opted to do that.

The budget will now go to voters early next month, in a two-step budget approval process. The spending plan first comes before the public at a town-meeting-style public budget meeting, where residents vote on individual articles that cover specific parts of the budget.

Whatever is approved at that meeting then goes to the polls within a specific number of days for a validation vote, where residents are simply asked a yes or no question: Do you approve the budget that was passed at the public budget meeting?

If that validation vote is affirmative, the budget is approved. If not, the budget goes back for another public budget meeting, followed by another validation vote, until a spending plan is eventually approved.

Mailloux said voters statewide will be asked this year if they want to abandon that two-step process and return to the former system, which consisted of just the public budget meeting.

Although dates have not officially been set yet, Mailloux said the district hoped to hold the validation vote for the budget Tuesday, June 8, in order to take advantage of the fact that many voters would already be heading to the polls that day for primary elections.

If that date is approved, the public budget meeting would likely take place sometime in the week prior to that vote (somewhere between Monday, May 31, and Friday, June 4).