February 24, 2018
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Consolidation group to discuss cost sharing

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

BLUE HILL, Maine — Representatives from the eight school districts in the Blue Hill Peninsula area considering forming an alternative organizational structure under the state school reorganization law will meet next week to discuss possible cost-sharing formulas.

The discussion could determine whether the towns will form a consolidated district.

“This is the deal,” Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt in reference to the potential for consolidating under an alternative organizational structure. “How much will it cost to join an AOS?”

The meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday at the Blue Hill Consolidated School library.

The AOS planning committee, which represents the school committees from Surry, School Union 93 (Blue Hill, Castine, Brooksville and Penobscot) and Union 76 (Deer Isle, Stonington, Brooklin and Sedgwick) will review projected central office costs for the proposed combined district.

The towns had previously developed a reorganization plan, which was rejected by the majority of the towns in 2009. Voters in Castine and Surry approved the plan, but voters in the remaining towns voted against it.

According to Union 76 Superintendent Robert Webster, the projected costs for running the central office have been allocated based on two different cost sharing formulas — the ones currently used by the two school unions.

One splits the combined central office costs based solely on enrollment percentages based on a three-year average of enrollment from each town. The other uses the same formula for half of the projected costs and splits the other half equally among the participating school districts.

The enrollment percentage formula would result in cost reductions for all of the school districts — some of them substantial reductions — except for Blue Hill, which would see an increase in its central office costs of $73,094. The 50-50 formula would still result in an increase for Blue Hill. But it also would mean increased costs for all of the other districts except Deer Isle-Stonington.

Although the actual figures may change slightly as the superintendents complete the formulas, the end results will remain the same. Most towns would see costs decrease under one formula and most would see costs increase under the other.

“If this is going to happen, it needs to make sense financially,” Hurvitt said Thursday.

Webster agreed.

Under a previous agreement, the AOS committee required approval from towns representing 88 percent of the enrollment — based on a three-year average — to move the plan forward. Under that plan, any one of the smaller towns could reject the plan and it could still move forward. Any large community or combination of two towns rejecting the plan, however, would sink it.

Rejection by Blue Hill, with 23.75 percent of the students or Deer Isle-Stonington, with 26 percent, would prevent consolidation under an AOS.

“I think this discussion could be definitive,” Webster said. “If you go with one formula and Blue Hill doesn’t participate, it’s over. Likewise, if you go with another formula and Deer Isle-Stonington opts out, it’s done.”

If the committee approves a cost-sharing formula on Monday and the process moves forward, a completed plan would be presented at public hearings in the individual towns in October. Voters would make their decision during the general election in November.

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