JAY — RSU 73 Superintendent Robert Wall told a group of selectmen and town managers from the district’s three member towns this week that projecting the costs if Jay and RSU 36 had stayed separate is hard to determine.
But he knows for sure that the 2011 consolidation of the former Jay School Department and RSU 36 based in Livermore Falls, has saved a significant amount of money.
The most savings, he said, came from a reduction of more than $223,000 in system and school administration.
The overall savings per town, from 2011 to the 2013-14 school year, came in at $177,751 for Livermore Falls and $643,711 for Jay. Only Livermore experienced an increase, which was $3,676.
“The average increase per year has been .64 percent,” he said.
Wall and several RSU 73 school board members met with town officials following a lengthy tour of the $1.8 million construction project at Spruce Mountain middle and high schools. The project allowed all 490 high school students to be in Jay. The Livermore Falls high school was closed to academics at the end of the 2013 school year.
“The School Department is trying to be responsible. As time goes on, we’ll have to look at state and federal money. We’ll have to make up the difference,” he said. “It’s difficult to see what we’d look like if we’d stayed the same. Both districts have declining student populations.”
He said costs for transportation and instruction have increased since the merger, but the district saved $300,000 by closing the Livermore Falls high school.
“We’re offering more to students. At the high school, we’re offering 30-plus more classes,” he added. “We’ve added things to make this the best school system.”
He also explained why $650,000 wasn’t saved by the closure of the former Livermore Falls High School.
“That’s the amount Livermore Falls and Livermore would have had to share to keep the school open,” he said.
He said the district is trying to develop options for the former high school that don’t involve taxes.
Prompting the meeting of RSU 73 and municipal officials was a request by Jay Selectman Pearl Cook, who was among the 15 selectmen and town managers who attended the Tuesday meeting.
A number of questions arose, including why Livermore now pays more school tax liability than previously. According to RSU 73 board Chairman Denise Rodzen, Livermore’s valuation went up while Livermore Falls' valuation declined.
Other questions answered were about the number of seniors at the high school, which now totals about 130, according to Principal TJ Plourde; whether space is available for additional secondary students, Plourde said there's room for a few more; and when the teacher contract will be settled. Rodzen assured those in attendance that settling that contract, which has been going on for more than two years, is a high priority for the board.
Wall also told town officials that the debt service for the Spruce Mountain Middle School construction will end in 2017, and for the Livermore Elementary School building in 2019.
“We want good communications,” Wall said.