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Veazie to hold final public hearing before RSU withdrawal vote

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

VEAZIE, Maine — The final public hearing before voters decide if the town should withdraw from RSU 26 has been set for next week.

During the hearing — set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Veazie Community School — residents will have an opportunity to hear additional details about what the proposed withdrawal from their regional school unit will mean for students and taxpayers in their community.

“We really want people to come out to the public hearing to find out what is going on, if they don’t already know,” Janine Raquet, chairwoman of Veazie’s withdrawal committee, said Tuesday.

Voters from Veazie and Glenburn, two of the three communities in RSU 26, will be asked if they want to secede from RSU 26 during separate referendums on Nov. 6.

The withdrawal votes are the second of two required by state law. In order for the withdrawal to pass in the November election, at least half of the number of residents who voted in the latest gubernatorial election would have to cast votes, and a majority of those voters would have to vote in favor of withdrawal.

If voters from those two towns approve the withdrawals, which would become effective July 1, 2013, Orono would be left as the sole member of the school district.

Veazie’s 14-page withdrawal agreement, as well as some of the related budgetary information, have been posted on the town’s website, www.veazie.net.

In addition, town officials recently sent out informational fliers spelling out some of the particulars.

The highlights of Veazie’s withdrawal plan were unveiled during a public hearing last month held by the RSU 26 board and the town’s withdrawal committee. These include:

• Veazie students would continue to have a choice of high schools, but Orono High School would take any students who aren’t able to attend any of the choice schools.

• Veazie also would share special education services, business office services and some teachers with the school district. Veazie also would use the services of RSU 26 Superintendent Douglas Smith if he remains with the school district.

• If Glenburn withdraws successfully, however, Smith would work as superintendent of Glenburn school and Orono and Veazie would have to make another superintendent arrangement.

During last month’s hearing, Rob Tomilson, another member of Veazie’s withdrawal committee, pegged the estimated savings Veazie could expect if it withdraws at $170,000 a year.

Next week’s hearing, which will be conducted by the town committee, likely will provide more in the way of financial details, Raquet said.

According to the town’s flier, Veazie would continue to share some RSU services, namely those of the special services department, the business office, the curriculum coordinator and possibly the superintendent, if it votes to withdraw. Its share of the cost would be 25.6 percent.

Veazie would have to pay $65,538 in outstanding RSU debt on the date the withdrawal becomes effective and 1.54 percent of any tax liability resulting from the withdrawal.

In addition, should Veazie decide to go it alone, it would need to form its own five-member school board and contract with its own teachers.

While projected cost savings are a large part of Veazie’s effort to withdraw from the RSU, some residents have other reasons.

“For me, it’s not about money,” said Raquet, the mother of a Veazie sixth-grader. “For me, it’s more about Veazie being able to have the say about its kids.”

As its stands, she noted that Orono has the advantage under the current weighted voting system.

“It’s not Orono’s fault. It’s just a bigger town,” she said.

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