HAMPDEN, Maine — After municipal taxes are collected and state subsidies are received, there is often little money left to support educational initiatives that are outside the set budget but still vital for student growth.
Leaders in Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh — the three towns that make up SAD 22 — believe it doesn’t have to be that way.
Earlier this year, SAD 22 received federal approval to create a 501c nonprofit education foundation to handle private, tax-deductible donations and gifts that could benefit local education.
Colleges and universities have been building strong philanthropic foundations for years, but the idea is still relatively new in the kindergarten through grade 12 arena, although Bangor, Orono, SAD 3 and others have separate foundations.
“We want to take advantage of the philanthropic support of the communities,” said Chris Cox, a member of the SAD 22 board of directors who first brought the idea of a foundation to Superintendent Rick Lyons a few years ago. “It’s not intended to replace PTAs [parent-teacher organizations] or booster clubs. It will have its own path.”
The newly formed foundation’s board of directors met for the first time late last month and is scheduled to meet again Aug. 19. The focus, at least initially, is to outline bylaws, determine the board’s structure and begin the process of hiring a part-time coordinator to start working this fall.
“The first step is creating the infrastructure, but we want the board to take ownership,” said Lyons, who is the de facto liaison between the SAD 22 board and the education foundation board.
Once the foundation received nonprofit status, Lyons, Cox and others began soliciting interest from community members about serving on the board. A list of 150 names was quickly whittled to about 35, and 17 of those names were chosen.
Like all public school districts in Maine, SAD 22 is funded through the state Department of Education’s essential services and programs formula. Lyons said in many cases, parents and others in the SAD 22 community have an interest in educational initiatives that go above and beyond what the state is willing to pay for. The other option is raising local property taxes, which is never a popular idea.
That’s where the foundation would come in, but only to supplement existing efforts not to supplant them, the superintendent said.
Cox and Lyons both stressed that no concrete goals have been outlined, except to create something that can last for generations.