BREWER, Maine — It’s back to the drawing board for the 10 communities within the proposed Regional School Unit 15 after residents gave the plan a failing grade by a 6-to-1 margin when they went to the polls last week.
Brewer School Committee members heard during their Monday meeting a report about the voting and the next steps in the school consolidation process, which is required by state law.
“It didn’t carry in any town,” Superintendent Daniel Lee told the board. “We have to now begin the planning process anew. We will have to find partners and find some agreement with our neighbors.”
With the thumbs down vote at the Jan. 27 referendum, Brewer and the four neighboring school districts will be assessed a penalty in the form of reduced state education funding. Brewer will lose about $244,000 from its 2009-10 state subsidy; Orrington, $107,000; Dedham, $55,210; SAD 63, $157,000; and CSD 8, $14,214.
As the law stands right now, that money would be funneled to communities that did consolidate or didn’t have to, which includes Bangor and SAD 22 based in Hampden.
Lee met with Maine Sen. Richard Rosen two days after the vote and was informed, “There are a couple bills in the hopper; one is to curtail the quarter-million penalty we’ll face.”
Officials from Brewer, Dedham, Orrington, the SAD 63 communities of Holden, Eddington and Clifton, and the CSD 8 towns of Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn have been working together for nearly two years to create a school consolidation plan.
“I think it would be prudent for the state to at least delay penalties,” Chairman Mark Farley said. “Brewer would be especially hard hit with the closure of Lemforder and Eastern Maine Healthcare [Cianchette building] coming off the tax rolls. I think it’s a sad thing basically taking money away from children.”
School leaders in Orrington were expected to discuss future RSU 15 planning at their Tuesday night meeting.
The 30-person RSU15 planning committee was able to demonstrate savings by consolidating the central office staffs of the five school systems, but those savings were more than offset by additional costs of aligning salaries, the draft plan states.
With the thumbs down vote, the committee now has time to come up with a plan that is fiscally responsible, Farley said.
“We will get something to work,” he said. “I want to ensure everybody that we will work on that immediately.”
Deputy chairwoman Amanda Bost thanked voters for the additional time.