LINCOLN, Maine — Lowell is poised to join the towns that compose RSU 67 and if it does, taxpayers in the regional school unit’s current member communities could save as much as $134,000 in taxes, Superintendent Denise Hamlin said Friday.
The RSU 67 board of directors voted 11-0 on Wednesday to sign a letter of intent to join with Lowell and accept approximately 40 kindergarten to 12th-grade students from the community next September, Hamlin said. About 20 students from Lowell now attend RSU 67 as tuition students.
Lowell and school leaders had been discussing this possibility for more than a year, Hamlin said.
The merger would accommodate a growing Lowell student population and spread the financial burden of maintaining a public school system from three communities to four — the best hedge possible against rising school costs and diminishing state and federal aid, Hamlin said. The current member towns are Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.
“Anytime you can bring another community into your system, you strengthen your system,” Hamlin said.
The broader a tax burden is spread, the less everyone has to pay. Preliminary estimates provided by the Maine Department of Education show that next year Chester would pay $17,000 less, Lincoln $115,000 less and Mattawamkeag, $12,000 less in school taxes, Hamlin said.
Lowell has no significant school debt, no teacher contracts to absorb and no significant transportation costs. RSU 67 already runs school buses through Lowell, Hamlin said.
Lowell, which has no schools of its own, withdrew from what is now SAU 31, the former SAD 31, in 2006. Its leaders cited a diminishing student population and figures that showed that paying tuition to the Lincoln Lakes region’s school districts was less expensive than remaining in an administrative district.
As part of the consolidation process, Lowell and the three RSU 67 towns will have to form a consolidation committee and hold town meetings and a special referendum in the spring, Hamlin said. No dates have been set.
Hamlin said it was likely that Lowell would have to be represented on the school board by at least one elected or appointed resident of that town. With Hamlin and the school board working to settle two contracts, it might prove challenging to conclude the merger this spring, she said.