June 23, 2018
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Bill would allow Surry to join School Union 93

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

SURRY, Maine  — The town of Surry could become an official member of School Union 93 if proposed special legislation is approved.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, is scheduled for a public hearing before the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs at 9 a.m. Friday in Augusta. It is one of a number of private and special education bills that will be heard Friday, including several dealing with issues pertaining to Maine’s school reorganization law.

Surry had been a member of School Union 92 before the school reorganization law was passed in 2007. Most of the former members of Union 92 chose to reorganize either with Alternative Organizational Structure 91 on Mount Desert Island, or with Regional School Union 24 which includes Ellsworth and 11 other towns in eastern Hancock County.

Surry chose to reorganize with the eight towns from Unions 76 (Deer Isle, Stonington, Brooklin and Sedgwick) and 93 (Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot) to form a nine-town AOS. Although Surry voters, and those in Castine, approved the reorganization plan, voters in the other member towns rejected it. That left the two school unions intact, but, according to the proposed legislation, left Surry with no other partner and, because of its geographical location, no practical way to comply with the state’s reorganization law.

That reorganization law also repealed the provision that allowed the commissioner of education to add new members to an existing school union.

For the past several years, Surry has contracted with School Union 93 to provide administrative services.

The law would authorize the education commissioner, once a plan of organization has been approved by the Surry and Union 93 boards, to adjust the Union 93 membership to include Surry. Langley’s bill has been submitted as emergency legislation and so, would become effective immediately upon passage by two-thirds of the vote in both the Maine House and Senate.

“The boards would have to vote to accept the conditions in the law,” Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said Tuesday. “But money won’t be a deal-breaker. Surry pays us [Union 93] what they would if they were a member town.”

He said he was unsure at this point whether the issue would require a town vote in Surry. That, he said, likely will depend on the final wording of the law. If all parties approve of the change, however,  Surry could join the union for the coming school year, Hurvitt said.

The measure has support from both the Union and Surry school boards, Hurvitt said, and representatives from each board are expected to provide written testimony  to the education committee in support of the measure. They, along with Hurvitt, may appear in person during a work session on the bill which has not yet been scheduled.

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