Voters in Calais, Baileyville, Eastport reject RSU proposal

Posted Jan. 13, 2009, at 10:57 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Voters in Calais, Eastport and Baileyville on Tuesday night handily rejected a plan to create a regional school unit serving 20 area communities.

Calais voters rejected the plan 249-23, while Baileyville and Eastport turned it down 171-5 and 133-29, respectively.

Four other towns that also reported their results Tuesday night rejected the plan as well. In Baring Plantation, 13 out of 18 voters said no, while Alexander voters rejected it 87-1. Robbinston and Crawford voters also rejected the RSU by a vote of 65-4 and 12-1, respectively.

Union 106 Superintendent Jim Underwood said after the election that voters in his communities of Calais, Baring, Alexander, Robbinston and Crawford offered a “resounding no” to the proposed plan.

Although 13 other towns also cast ballots as part of the 20-town plan, their results are not expected until sometime today. The remaining towns proposed for the RSU are Charlotte, Perry, Cooper, Grand Lake Stream Plantation, Meddybemps, Princeton, Talmadge, Waite, Pembroke, Dennysville, Codyville, Topsfield and Vance-boro.

Union 107 Superintendent Barry McLaughlin, who represents towns in the Baileyville area, said Tuesday that in order for the proposed plan to have passed, the three towns would have had to have been on board. Under the rules, the three towns represent 75 percent of the student population and valuation so their turning it down means the plan is dead.

Underwood noted that the student population for his union alone represents more than 40 percent of the total school population.

The reorganization plan was created in response to the law passed in June 2007 requiring that the state’s 290 school districts be reorganized into approximately 80 regional school units governed by regional school boards with the goal of streamlining operations and reducing costs. School districts that fail to formulate and ap-prove by referendum acceptable plans to consolidate administrative services face financial penalties.

Before the election, Calais city officials said the RSU plan, if approved, would cost Calais taxpayers more money to operate their schools and no longer would allow them to have control over their school budget. They urged voters to reject it.

Taxpayers apparently agreed Tuesday and voted the plan down.

The committee that formulated the RSU plan now will have to roll up its sleeves again to look at the creation of an alternative organizational structure plan which, unlike the RSU proposal, would allow, if approved by voters, each community to have control over its school budgets.

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