MEDWAY, Maine — The Board of Selectmen and Medway School Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose combining town, East Millinocket and Millinocket schools as an Alternative Organizational Structure.
Calling the AOS plan’s financial aspects hopelessly incomplete, the boards took pains to state that the vote was not about rejecting eventual school reorganization or retarding the strong working relationship it enjoys with its other Katahdin region towns.
“We will work with the towns however we can,” selectmen board Chairman David Dickey said during a 6 p.m. meeting at Medway Middle School on Tuesday. A meeting for residents then was held at 7 p.m. and was attended by about 50 people.
Board members advised residents to vote against the AOS plan in the Jan. 27 referendum. They said it was better to take the state-imposed $32,000 fine for failing to comply with the state-mandated reorganization — the devil they knew — than perhaps pay more by following a flawed plan.
The key issue, board members said, was the lack of a funding formula that would fairly divide state money among the municipalities despite almost two years of plan preparation. That made supporting the AOS proposal like buying a car without knowing its cost.
“I am very concerned about signing a blank check,” Selectman Bill Perkins said during the first meeting. “The plan itself I don’t have a problem with.”
“If they [state officials] don’t give you all the information you need to vote on this, it’s not ready,” school committee member Carol LeVasseur said.
State education officials tasked the tri-town AOS committee with formulating an equitable funding formula, but committee members tossed it back to the state when their efforts failed. State officials continue to work on it, meeting with AOS committee members in Augusta for three hours on Tuesday, said committee member Wallace Paul, Millinocket’s Town Council chairman.
AOS committee member Bill Hamlin of East Millinocket didn’t hang around for the second meeting.
Disgusted by what he called Medway officials’ intransigence, Hamlin left before it started, saying that while the plan’s lack of a funding formula is “a big issue” for which the state is at fault, every funding scenario state officials have offered shows Medway’s state funding increasing next year.
Three scenarios he had showed increases of $17,462, $19,673 and $87,620 in 2009.
“They just want to take another year to do this. This is just a waste of my time. I wish I could understand their reasoning. If you figure it out, do me a favor and let me know,” Hamlin said as he walked away.
Committee member Judy Davis said she feared that the proposed state funding scenarios eventually would have led to fights among the three towns.
“We need to find a method that works to divide things so that we are not shifting subsidies between towns that would not be shifted around if we were not together,” Davis said.
Meeting attendees seemed to agree with the boards’ rationale, although some feared higher taxes and pressed board members to assure them that good work would continue with the other towns.