June 20, 2018
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Consolidation plan loses in southern Aroostook

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HODGDON, Maine — Voters in Aroostook County have sent the state a message, SAD 70 Superintendent Robert McDaniel said Wednesday, just one day after his school district turned down a proposal to form an alternative organizational structure with three other districts.

Voters in SAD 25 (Stacyville area) and Moro Plantation approved the plan, but voters in SAD 14 (Danforth area), SAD 70 (Hodgdon area), CSD 9 (Dyer Brook area), Orient, Bancroft and Hersey rejected the plan.

In November, voters turned down a proposed regional school consolidation plan that called for SAD 29 (Houlton area), SAD 70, SAD 14, SAD 25, Community School District 9, and the municipal units of Hersey, Moro Plantation, Orient and Bancroft to consolidate to form the Tri-County Regional School Unit.

Once that plan was rejected, all the members of the proposed RSU except SAD 29 submitted a plan for an alternative organizational structure. The alternative called for those districts and towns to partner on reorganization. That plan was approved by the Department of Education.

In districts where the voters rejected the plan, the planning committees may try to develop a new plan. Districts that rejected the reorganization plan face penalties for their failure to reorganize. The consolidation law provides for reductions in school subsidies in those districts.

SAD 25 Superintendent John A. Doe said Wednesday that he was not surprised that the proposal passed in his district.

“The vote was 185 for the plan and 169 against it,” he said. “I looked for it to pass in our district, so I wasn’t surprised.”

He said that his district was going to “wait and see” what direction the district received from Augusta.

In SAD 70, however, the plan was rejected by a vote of 158-62.

“I wasn’t really sure how this would go, but I am not surprised by the outcome,” McDaniel said. “I think that voters in Aroostook County have sent the state a message.”

The message was that voters in districts that rejected their plans did not approve of the school consolidation law, he indicated.

He said the district will incur a financial penalty for not complying with the law, but he was not sure what the penalty would be.

“There are several bills in the Legislature that aim to do away with those fees,” he said. “We are hoping one will pass.”

William Dobbins, superintendent of SAD 14 in Danforth, said all of the towns in his district turned down the plan. He said he is taking the same stance as SAD 70 and looking to see what the Legislature will do.

He said his district faces a $25,000 penalty for not complying with the law.

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