Glenburn, Veazie begin school district withdrawal talks as residents add $265,000 to budget

Posted May 30, 2012, at 10:38 p.m.

GLENBURN, Maine — The Veazie and Glenburn committees attempting to pull their towns out of their school union with Orono began early negotiations with the RSU 26 board during a meeting Wednesday night.

The withdrawal committees are attempting to address 11 requirements laid out in state statute.

Among those requirements are ensuring that all students in the withdrawing town have adequate access to educational services, that property and assets are appropriately divided and that pre-existing financial obligations are taken care of.

The committees’ solutions to those issues need to be approved by both the school board and the Maine Department of Education commissioner before voters go to the polls to approve or deny the plan.

Michael O’Connor, Glenburn withdrawal committee member and Town Council chairman, told the board he hopes to have a final plan ready for board consideration by July 10 so the agreement can be submitted to the Department of Education by July 24.

Janine Raquet, chairwoman of the Veazie withdrawal group, said her committee still was weighing its options and didn’t have as “ambitious” a time frame as Glenburn.

She said the committee and school board would need to address several questions going forward, including what tuition rates would be for Veazie students attending Orono High School postwithdrawal.

The committees will continue to gather information and numbers as they craft a plan for pulling out and said they will continue to update the board and share plan drafts throughout the process.

In the meantime, the district still has to decide on its budget for the next fiscal year.

During a Tuesday night school district budget meeting attended by about 60 people from the three towns at Veazie Community School, residents voted to add $265,000 to the board’s recommended budget, making the total budget roughly $21.8 million — an increase of about $480,000 over last year’s budget.

Brian McGill of Orono suggested the addition to the budget as a way of giving the board extra money to work with in an attempt to reinstate the Glenburn assistant principal’s position to the budget and add back several other positions throughout the district that have been cut or reduced during the budgeting process.

Glenburn residents argued that not having an assistant principal in a school with more than 400 K-8 students presented a significant safety risk.

After much wrangling and discussion during the three-hour meeting, residents approved the move via ballot.

Some of those who voted against the measure said that while adding money to the budget might bring back positions at the district’s schools, it will mean tax increases in each community, which many residents not present at Tuesday’s meeting might find burdensome.

O’Connor said Glenburn already has passed a bare-bones budget and any increase in local allocations would need to be covered almost entirely by a tax hike — a fact that would not please Glenburn residents or residents of other towns that may need to raise more tax dollars to come up with the additional $265,000.

Voters will consider the school budget in a districtwide referendum question on the June 12 ballot in each town.

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