June 19, 2018
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Last public hearing before RSU 26 withdrawal vote draws few residents

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

VEAZIE, Maine — The final public hearing before voters decide if the town should withdraw from RSU 26 drew few residents to Veazie Community School Thursday night.

The dozen or so people who did turn up had little in the way of questions or comments during the hearing, which lasted all of 20 minutes.

On Nov. 6, voters from Veazie and Glenburn — two of the three communities in RSU 26 — will be asked if they want to secede during separate referendums on Nov. 6. If they do, Orono would be the unit’s sole member.

Heartburn over cost-sharing and a desire to regain control over the education of their children were cited as reasons for starting the withdrawal process by residents of both Veazie and Glenburn.

Early projections suggest that Veazie could expect to save about $170,000 a year if it withdraws.

During Thursday’s hearing, Veazie resident Julie Hathaway, vice chairman of the RSU 26 board, offered her perspective on Veazie’s experience as an RSU 26 member town.

“I would have to say that the people who put the whole RSU thing together did not do any favors,” Hathaway said. “One problem is that they left no mechanism for changing a charter to make it more equitable. It’s like bathing suits — one size fits all, one RSU fits all.

“If they had left a mechanism [for amending such provisions as the cost-sharing formula] we could have changed things that would have made our RSU better, but they didn’t,” she said.

“For the first two years, we did work really well together,” Hathaway said. “We achieved [prekindergarten]. We achieved alternative education. Our teachers learned to work together really well. So, it was not all a bad thing.

Veazie Town Manager Joe Hayes thanked the withdrawal committee — Chairwoman Janine Raquet, Chris Dalton, Tammy Olson and Rob Tomilson — for all of the work they have done to advance the withdrawal process, despite a short timeframe.

The Nov. 6 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, has been posted on the town’s website, www.veazie.net.

The highlights of Veazie’s withdrawal plan were unveiled during a public hearing last month. These include:

• Veazie students would continue to have a choice of high schools, but Orono High School would take any students unable to attend choice schools.

• Veazie also would share some administrative services and some teachers with the school district.

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

Veazie residents who want to be considered for the interim school board, which would serve until the next scheduled election, should fill out citizen involvement applications and return them to the Town Office.

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