Wiscasset nears withdrawal vote from regional school district

Posted May 06, 2013, at 3:10 p.m.

WISCASSET, Maine — The town’s RSU Withdrawal Committee is seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

On Thursday night, Regional School Unit 12 will consider a negotiated agreement between its Ad Hoc Withdrawal Committee and the RSU Withdrawal Committee of Wiscasset. The meeting at the RSU 12 Central Office in Somerville begins at 6:30 p.m.

The tentative agreement could culminate months of negotiations — some of it tense — between the two committees.

If the RSU 12 Board of Directors so votes, Wiscasset’s request to withdraw from RSU 12 would go to the state Department of Education. Given the state’s approval, Wiscasset residents would decide in November if they want to leave RSU 12 and manage the three Wiscasset public schools on their own.

Currently, RSU 12 manages Wiscasset High School, Wiscasset Middle School and Wiscasset Primary School, in addition to other schools in the far-flung school unit. Wiscasset residents voted last summer to form the Withdrawal Committee, in an attempt to form their own independent school unit.

“The biggest reason was control,” said Jefferson Slack, who serves on both the Withdrawal Committee and the Board of Selectmen. “People wanted control of their schools again.”

“The agreement’s pretty much done,” he said. “We’re just working on minor points — language and such.”

Slack acknowledged that, for at least the first year, education costs would increase under a new Wiscasset School Administrative Unit. As it stands, the town pays 26 percent of the RSU 12 operating budget, he said.

“Eventually, we’re hoping we can save money,” he said.

William Stockmeyer, the lawyer working for RSU 12 in the negotiations, has written language for proposed legislation that could enable the agreement to move forward. The legislation would address emergency repairs, without which the school unit as a whole is responsible for emergency repairs to buildings — even in the last months of a potential separation.

A new Wiscasset School Administrative Unit would be responsible for covering these costs to school buildings in town, and not emergency repairs in other RSU 12 towns, between the date of the withdrawal vote and the effective date of withdrawal of July 1, 2014.

Slack said that once the DOE signs off on the agreement, the town has 45 days to post a withdrawal referendum prior to a November vote.

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