A change in the state’s school consolidation law should allow Union 113 to become an alternative organizational structure and thereby save about $108,000 in state penalties this year, Superintendent Quenten Clark said Wednesday.
The Union 113 towns — East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville — are awaiting word from Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen on their application to form the AOS. The union applied several weeks ago, Clark said.
“It is very similar to the structure everyone is used to,” Clark said Wednesday. “There are a lot of different things we need to do in order to get this done in time.”
Forming the AOS would save the three towns about $108,000 next year in fines levied to municipalities that fail to comply with the reorganization law. Clark said East Millinocket faces an approximately $60,000 fine; Medway, about $40,000; and Woodville, the smallest of the three towns, about $8,000.
An AOS is a combination of two or more school administrative units joined to provide administrative and educational services for municipalities. According to the definition of the term provided by the Department of Education, each member entity maintains its own budget, has its own school board, and is operated in every way as a separate unit except for the administrative services and those educational services indicated in the AOS reorganization plan.
Budget approval is by majority vote of those present and voting at district budget meetings. AOS decisions are made by a board composed of representatives from each town’s school board.
Residents, Clark said, would not likely notice any significant difference between an AOS and the present school setup.
Previous efforts to form an AOS with Union 113 have failed because the school system didn’t serve enough students, but the Legislature modified the consolidation law this year to allow the smallest school units to form an AOS, Clark said.
Millinocket school committee members have expressed an interest in consolidating with Union 113, but the three towns’ leaders have declined the invitation repeatedly.
That rejection is among the reasons cited by Millinocket school leaders for recruitment of Chinese students to attend Stearns High School next year at a tuition rate that would offset recent and expected cuts in the school system’s budget.
If, Clark said, Bowen approves Union 113’s AOS request, Union 113 leaders will have to assemble an AOS plan by July 1 in addition to creating school budgets, handling regular school business, and awaiting the outcome of a San Francisco firm’s attempt to buy two Katahdin region mills, which will have a huge impact on East Millinocket’s school revenues.
Public hearings and town votes are part of the AOS process, Clark said.