Veazie aims to hold school district withdrawal vote on March 27, same day as Glenburn

Posted Feb. 14, 2012, at 5:03 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 14, 2012, at 6:24 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — The Town Council is expected to accept a petition calling for Veazie’s withdrawal from RSU 26 during a brief special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the town office.

The town will follow a timeline that would allow Veazie residents to decide on March 27 whether the town should continue its attempt to pull out of the school district, council Chairman Joseph Friedman said during a council meeting Monday night.

Glenburn has scheduled its special election to consider withdrawal for the same day.

On Feb. 10, a group of five Veazie residents submitted 110 signatures from people in town who favored calling a vote to see if the town will proceed with the lengthy, difficult school district withdrawal process. The group needed signatures from 88 residents — or 10 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election — to get the question on the ballot.

If a majority of voters at the March 27 special election favor the withdrawal bid, a committee made up of a town councilor, a member of the withdrawal group, a member of the school board and a member of the public enters into negotiations with the school board.

After that, the plan that comes out of that committee has to be approved in another election by a two-thirds vote. Then the plan has to be approved by the state Department of Education.

At Wednesday’s special meeting, the council will vote on whether to accept the petition and sign the warrant calling for the special election. State statute requires that the ballots be drafted and available at least 30 days before the election.

The statute also states that the town needs to hold a public hearing on the withdrawal bid at least 10 days before the election. The council has not yet set a date for that hearing.

The referendum question will call for the appropriation of $50,000 from the town to cover any legal fees associated with the withdrawal process. That is a “do-not-exceed limit,” according to Rob Tomlinson, a member of the withdrawal petition committee. If the full amount isn’t used, the leftover would go back into town accounts.

A group in Orono, the third town in the school district, also is circulating a withdrawal petition that would require 330 signatures, according to the Orono town clerk. That petition hadn’t been submitted as of Tuesday afternoon.

Not all three communities can withdraw from the school district because that would effectively dissolve RSU 26, which isn’t allowed, according to Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin. If two towns were to withdraw successfully, the third would be left in the school district on its own unless another municipality joined up.

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