April 23, 2018
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Hermon, Carmel, Levant reject consolidation plan

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — As expected, voters in Hermon, Levant and Carmel on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to combine the towns’ schools into a state-mandated regional school unit.

In Hermon, 335 residents voted against the proposal, while just 22 supported it, according to Town Clerk Carol Davis. Similar lopsided results were reported in Carmel (167 against, 10 in favor) and Levant (174-16), the two communities that make up SAD 23.

Earlier this month, the SAD 23 board of directors voted unanimously to oppose the consolidation plan. In early December, the Hermon School Committee cast a unanimous “no confidence” vote in the consolidation plan. John Backus and Patricia Duran, the superintendents of SAD 23 and the Hermon School Department, respectively, also have said they didn’t support consolidation.

By voting not to consolidate, all three towns could be subjected to a reduction in state subsidy.

The state law requiring that schools consider reorganizing or consolidating administrations includes a provision that allows the state to scale back state funding to those towns or SADs that do not comply.

Estimates released by the state Department of Education last week indicated that SAD 23 would face a penalty of $141,837, while Hermon would face a penalty of $144,605.

Both Backus and Duran have said that a forced consolidation likely would have meant an even higher financial burden. They estimated it would cost about $350,000 to bring SAD 23 salaries up to the rates of Hermon’s educators and administrators.

According to state law, newly formed regional school units, or RSUs, should have at least 2,500 students, although state education officials can approve exceptions down to 1,200 students.

Votes on school administration consolidation plans are scheduled in a number of other areas for Tuesday, Jan. 27.

The state’s deadline for drawing up plans and having them approved by the Department of Education and by voters is Jan. 31.

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