BREWER, Maine — Regional School Unit 15 planning committee members spent half of Thursday’s meeting talking about how to handle debt and the other half reviewing the first draft of the plan they will submit to the state next month.
The consolidation plan must be made final and submitted to the state Department of Education by Nov. 14.
“It was the first time we’ve seen [the draft] in that format,” said Kyle Casburn, chairman of the committee planning the new district, on Friday.
The RSU 15 committee will meet two more times to work on the plan before the state’s deadline.
“It is very fluid,” Casburn said. “A lot of areas need to be filled in.”
The planning committee also set Jan. 27 as the day residents of the 10 individual towns within RSU 15 will vote on joining the new school district under the plan.
Brewer is working with Dedham, Orrington, SAD 63 and CSD 8 to create RSU 15 under the state’s school consolidation law.
“We’re probably 75 percent complete” with the planning process, Casburn said. “The biggest piece [now] is to determine the disposition of existing local debt, and any new local debt.”
The debt questions are centered on Brewer, which has around $3 million in debt remaining, mostly for safety and efficiency improvements at the high school, and will have $2.73 million more once the city’s new elementary-middle school is complete in late 2010.
Brewer’s new school debt is broken into two amounts — $133,000 for property and $2.6 million for a performance area, which was added onto the project with resident’s approval. How to handle the debt for the performance stage is a question that still needs to be answered, Casburn said.
“We’re all planning to transfer the real property and the personal property to the [new] RSU,” he said. “If Brewer agrees to transfer those properties, the RSU has to decide if we want to accept that debt. That’s the same issue we have with existing debt.”
He said there are arguments on both sides.
None of the partnering communities has debt, except for SAD 63, which has a small amount that is scheduled to be mostly paid off this year.
Another big question is how teacher salaries will be handled, especially with SAD 63 and Brewer both negotiating contracts, Casburn has said.
Some parts of the consolidation plan already are final. The new RSU 15 board will have 16 members and the costs will be split among member towns with 50 percent based on property values and 50 percent based on student population.
The new 10-community board will have weighted votes with Brewer having six directors, Clifton one, Dedham one, Eddington two, Holden two, Orrington three, and the four Airline communities splitting one.
Whether there will be a cost savings under the consolidated unit is another question “that’s still being determined,” Casburn said. “We’re working on that.”
The next RSU 15 planning committee meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at Brewer High School. Once more decisions are made, public meetings will be scheduled to prepare voters for the Jan. 27 referendum.