Residents to vote on school consolidation

Posted June 04, 2010, at 12:45 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:34 a.m.

Voters from East Range II Community School District, SAD 30 and Unions 107 and 110 will decide Tuesday whether to form the Eastern Maine Area School Systems, a move that would save member towns about $130,000 annually, Union 107 Superintendent Barry McLaughlin said Thursday.

“That’s a significant amount of money, especially in a rural part of the state like this,” McLaughlin said.

If residents voting in Tuesday’s referendum agree to create the alternative organizational structure — or AOS — EMASS will be the second new school system formed in the Lincoln Lakes and Katahdin regions since a state law requiring school consolidation was passed in 2007. The SAD 67 towns of Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag agreed to form RSU 67 in May 2009.

As with RSU 67, officials from the would-be EMASS say they don’t expect any significant change in the day-to-day routines of students and parents in the four districts.

If EMASS is formed, it will consist of about 950 students. The Maine Department of Education approved forming the district in late April.

SAD 30 serves 210 students from Lee, Springfield, Webster and Winn, according to the school system website. It has a joint school board with Union 110, which serves about 50 students from Lakeville and the plantations of Carroll, Drew, Macwahoc and Reed.

East Range serves Codyville and Topsville. Union 107 serves Cooper, Grand Lake Stream Plantation, Meddybemps, Princeton, Talmadge and Waite.

By state law, school and town officials have until July 1, the start of the 2010-11 state fiscal year, to finish forming the AOS — presuming voter approval — or they could face significant penalties, McLaughlin said.

Baileyville would be penalized $71,490; Princeton, and other communities its size, approximately $23,901; and SAD 30, $45,731, according to a fiscal model developed by plan proponents.

McLaughlin said that as far as he knows, the Legislature hasn’t yet penalized school systems or towns for failure to comply with the state law requiring consolidation, but that situation could change next fiscal year.

Under the AOS proposal, the school units and their school boards retain all current powers and duties, all real and personal school property, all their indebtedness and lease-purchase obligations and all school choices for students to attend.

Presuming an approving vote, there would be an initial AOS board meeting on June 14 to elect a superintendent and discuss a 2010-11 AOS budget and an AOS board meeting for EMASS on June 22. No site has been selected for either meeting.

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