PICTOU, N.S. -- Residents of Nova Scotia's Pictou County have voted against amalgamating several rural communities into one municipality with two-thirds of voters rejecting the proposed merger.

About 16,700 ballots were cast in a plebiscite held on Saturday to decide whether Stellarton, New Glasgow, Pictou and the Municipality of Pictou County should consolidate into one municipal unit. Approximately 11,000 voters cast ballots rejecting amalgamation.

The plebiscite concludes a contentious debate on whether to merge four of Pictou County's six municipalities.

Only one community embraced the local amalgamation, with 66 per cent of New Glasgow residents voting in favour of the proposal.

The nearby towns of Trenton and Westville were not included in the process.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has said that joining the communities would have resulted in savings of at least $500,000 annually.

That does not include an agreement the province signed with the municipalities in February that pledged more than $27 million over five years if amalgamation proceeded.