SAD 31 voters liked the idea, but Greenbush residents rejected forming an alternative organizational structure with SAD 31, leaving both liable for $140,000 in fines for failing to comply with a state school consolidation law, officials said Wednesday.
Greenbush residents rejected forming the AOS by a 62-37 vote during a special referendum on Tuesday, negating the more than 90 percent affirmative vote from the towns of SAD 31, Superintendent Jerry White said.
Greenbush Town Manager Rob Littlefield lamented the negative return, saying it might have been caused by voters confusing the AOS vote with an earlier rejected attempt to form a regional school unit with another school administrative unit.
“I think it was a holdover from their RSU battle in Old Town. That had a number of people skittish about doing anything else,” he said. “I heard that the RSU controversy overshadowed everything.”
“We rushed into this quite a bit,” Littlefield said Wednesday. “I don’t think we had enough time to get all of the information out to people.”
Some Greenbush voters questioned whether they would be able to send their children to schools other than Penobscot Valley High School of Howland in SAD 31. Under the AOS, the students would have retained all of their present choices, Littlefield said.
Under the consolidation law, the municipalities could be fined in 2012, though so far, no municipalities have been fined for previous failures to consolidate.
The governing boards of Greenbush and SAD 31, which serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag, would have remained under the AOS, with an AOS board formed from members of both meeting a few times a year, White has 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.
The law’s intent is to use consolidation to improve efficiencies and lower education costs by combining school systems. 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.
With Tuesday’s vote behind them, SAD 31 board members likely will continue consolidation talks with SAD 41 and possibly other school units, White said.