GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 directors showed little support Tuesday for an administrative consolidation partnership with SAD 68.
Although they rejected a move to file a letter of intent to form an alternative organizational structure with SAD 68 in the Dover-Foxcroft area in an 11-4 vote, the directors left the door open to the possibility of partnering with another district or community.
Those districts that have not yet consolidated administrative offices as required by Maine law will continue to face penalties. What state lawmakers want to see are regional school districts sharing the services of a superintendent and the associated functions of a central office.
Officials in SAD 4, along with those in SAD 41 in the Milo area, had explored the possibility of forming an AOS with SAD 68. While SAD 68 voted last week to file letters of intent to form an AOS with SAD 41 and SAD 4, SAD 41 directors voted earlier this week to move forward to partner with SAD 31 in the Howland region.
Unlike SADs 4 and 41, which operate kindergarten through grade 12 programs, SAD 68 operates a kindergarten through grade eight program and its high school students pay tuition to attend independent Foxcroft Academy.
“We’re not just going to stop and put our heads in the sand and that’s it. We’re just going to keep in touch and go from there,” Director George Nuite said Tuesday. He suggested keeping the lines of communication open with AOS 94 in the Dexter-Harmony area and with Greenville.
With the district facing a penalty of $144,000 in the next budget cycle, that statement didn’t please Director Ron Labonte. If directors are going to keep in touch informally, the district will go nowhere, he said.
“What are we going to pursue?” Labonte asked.
Director Ann Bridge suggested the board’s ad hoc committee, which was formed to look at consolidation, be charged with looking at the district’s finances and coming up with recommendations for what the district should do next. She also said the board needed to discuss its choices with the public.
“I think we’re in tough shape here,” Bridge said.
SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns didn’t dispute that comment. Along with the penalty, he said there are other financial problems — among them a $280,000 drop in state subsidy.
Stearns also pointed out that a large portion of the budget is driven by state valuations which “skyrocketed” and affected the last budget. Since Guilford’s valuation is down this year, the other SAD 4 communities of Sangerville, Abbot, Parkman, Cambridge and Wellington will have to ante up more money, he said. The board has no control over the state valuation, he said.