Greenbush, SAD 31 vote today on consolidation

Posted June 14, 2010, at 8:22 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:33 a.m.

Voters in Greenbush and the towns of SAD 31 will decide today whether to form an alternative organizational structure and avoid $140,000 in fines while saving as much as $30,000 annually.

The proposed school consolidation, which would be called Greenbush-SAD 31 AOS, might be one of the easiest to approve in the Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes regions, as it requires very little change to both systems, said Jerry White, SAD 31’s superintendent, who also works as Greenbush’s top education official.

“In case nobody notices, it is in alphabetical order, so we don’t have an argument as to which comes first,” White said Monday of the proposed AOS’ name.

If voters approve of it, the day-to-day lives of students and their parents in Greenbush and SAD 31 will not change under the AOS, White said.

Some Greenbush students already attend Penobscot Valley High School, a SAD 31 school in Howland. Those who attend or plan to attend high schools in Bangor, Lee, Old Town and Orono or elsewhere still will have a right to do so under the AOS, White said.

The governing boards of Greenbush and SAD 31, which serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag, will remain. An AOS board formed from members of both will meet a few times a year, White said.

By state law, school officials have until July 1, the start of the 2010-11 state fiscal year, to finish forming the AOS or they could face stiff penalties. SAD 31 would be fined $105,000 and Greenbush $35,000. Though no municipality has yet been fined, that might change within the next year, White said.

“I think they [state officials] are serious this year. They are set up to impose penalties this year,” White said, calling the fines “the worst part of the entire consolidation law.”

The law’s intent is to use consolidation to improve efficiencies and lower education costs by combining school systems. Initially, AOS sizes were set at more than 1,000 students, although a later law overturned that, White said.

White said that the proposed SAD 31-Greenbush AOS would save $25,000 to $30,000 annually while serving about 840 students, according to 2006 student population figures, which the law requires using as a benchmark.

If voters approve the AOS, White said he would take the results to Augusta on Wednesday to certify them with Maine Department of Education officials after the Greenbush and SAD 31 boards meet that morning to also certify them.

The members of the Greenbush-SAD 31 AOS board of directors will be named at a meeting at 7 p.m. June 22 at Helen S. Dunn School in Greenbush, with an AOS budget meeting set for June 30, White said.

SAD 31 voters can vote in their towns’ municipal buildings during the following times: Burlington, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Edinburg, noon to 6 p.m.; Enfield, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Howland, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Maxfield, 2 to 7 p.m.; and Passadumkeag, 8 a.m. to noon.

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