Voters in Old Town, Alton and Bradley on Tuesday endorsed an administrative consolidation of their schools into Regional School Unit 16. That means the merger will go forward with participation by those three municipalities.
Voters in Greenbush and Milford, which along with Alton and Bradley make up school Union 90, voted against participating in the RSU, meaning those two towns will lose a portion of their state education funding and must hire their own school superintendents and other administrative staff.
The votes for each town:
— Old Town — 348 yes, 150 no
— Alton — 40 yes, 19 no
— Bradley — 67 yes, 26 no
— Milford — 82 no, 60 yes
— Greenbush — 128 no, 26 yes
Old Town School Superintendent David Walker said Tuesday night that he was pleased with the vote, but expressed surprise at Milford’s rejection of the consolidation. Greenbush’s rejection was expected, he said.
Milford will lose $69,081 a year in state funding. Greenbush will lose $35,840. Voters in those towns will be allowed to reconsider joining RSU 16 in the future.
Voter turnout in all five towns was low.
“I’m getting a lot of knitting done,” ward clerk Marie Richards said at the Elks Club polling station in Old Town in the early afternoon.
Old Town voter Patsy Beane said she was ambivalent about the consolidation but voted for it in the end.
“Pricewise, it’s probably going to help eventually,” she said. She had concerns, though, about the possibility of overcrowding in Old Town’s schools if smaller schools from Union 90 should close in the future. “It’s good for kids to go to school in their own towns,” Beane said.
In Bradley, a voter who declined to be identified said he supported the merger. “I don’t think we have any other option,” he said. Rejection would have cost Bradley $35,150 a year in lost state funds.
In Greenbush, Town Manager Robert Littlefield said residents there were concerned about several aspects of the proposed consolidation, including a provision that would deed the town’s K-8 school and the land it sits on to the new RSU. People also were concerned about the loss of local control, that the Helen Dunn School might be closed in the future, and that Greenbush families might lose the ability to send their teens to their choice of area high schools, Littlefield said.
Old Town Superintendent Walker said that once the RSU receives its certificate of organization from the state Department of Education, the process of electing a new board with representation from the three participating towns will begin.
Union 90 superintendent Alan Smith could not be reached for comment.