PITTSFIELD, Maine — SAD 53 board members agreed Monday night to begin exploring consolidation with several other districts, including SADs 59 (Madison), 3 (Unity and Troy area), and 69 (Dover-Foxcroft.)
SAD 53, which serves Burnham, Detroit and Pittsfield, has been searching for a consolidation partner, having been rebuffed by several other districts that were so large they didn’t need partners. SAD 53 also was dropped from a consolidation plan with SAD 48 (Newport) and rejected in a referendum vote with SAD 59 last June.
SAD 59 just rejected a consolidation plan with SAD 74 (northwestern Somerset County) and Superintendent Michael Gallagher, who serves both SAD 53 and 59, said Monday that SAD 59 is interested in reopening consolidation discussions with SAD 53.
But board members said they would proceed cautiously with SAD 59 since many district residents may still have bitter feelings over last June’s rejection. Even though SAD 53 residents approved that merger, it is facing the loss of $175,000 in state funding, based on the rejection.
“I think we need some overture from SAD 59 that they are interested and possibly some reassurances,” Chairman Robert Downs said.
Gallagher said that the feeling for some people in SAD 59 around last June’s vote was “Why not SAD 74?” which is geographically contiguous with SAD 59.
“Then, when they were getting ready to vote last week with 74, there were many, many questions about whether the plan with 74 was as good as the original plan with 53,” Gallagher said. “There were many more positive things about the plan with 53.”
Board members wanted to look at all options, however, and believed approaching three districts made sense.
Gallagher said he would reactivate SAD 63’s regional planning committee to review whichever districts show interest.
Downs said there would be a people’s referendum in November to revoke the state’s mandatory consolidation requirements. “Any vote may have to come after that,” he said.
State Rep. Stacey Fitts, D-Pittsfield, also has submitted an emergency bill that would give districts that are still attempting consolidation, but have not found partners, an extra year to accomplish it.
“The [penalty] clock is ticking, but this legislation would kick it forward another year,” Downs said.