GLENBURN, Maine — After more than a year of discussions and planning, Glenburn residents are poised to decide if they want to remain part of RSU 26 or go it alone.
The decision will be made at the polls on Nov. 6, which also is when Veazie residents will decide if their future lies with the regional school unit. If both towns vote to secede, the only remaining member will be Orono.
Glenburn and Veazie both have received initial approval to withdraw from the Department of Education commissioner.
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.
In Glenburn’s case, that means at least 970 residents need to take part in the RSU withdrawal vote, Town Manager Michael Crooker said Tuesday.
Glenburn and Veazie voters heavily favored forming committees to explore withdrawal during special elections held in March. Residents behind the withdrawal bids have said the benefits of regaining full control of their schools outweigh the benefits that were supposed to come from merging.
Glenburn Town Council Chairman Michael O’Connor said earlier that costs to Glenburn would increase about $40,000 in the first year after withdrawal because the town would have to pay the full amount of superintendent Douglas Smith’s contract, as well as some other service costs and fees.
However, he said Glenburn also wouldn’t have to pitch in toward the costs of infrastructure improvements in coming years at Orono’s aging schools. The town could also make its own choices for its schools without being outvoted by representatives of other communities on a school board where each town has its own interests and priorities for its schools.
In summing up his views on the issue this week, O’Connor said that withdrawal is important to Glenburn for two key reasons — regaining local control over education and mitigating major future cost increases.
“The board of RSU 26 is currently comprised of five members from Orono, four from Glenburn and three from Veazie, however, due to weighted voting — as required by state law — Orono carries greater than 50 percent of the total vote,” he said. “Therefore, if they are united they can implement items that will be partially funded by Glenburn and Veazie.”
As a case in point, O’Connor noted that in June, a majority of voters in Glenburn and Veazie voted against the current school budget but when combined with Orono’s totals, the budget passed.
The polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Glenburn Municipal Building. More information about the withdrawal, as well as a sample ballot, can be found on the town’s website, www.glenburn.org.