FAYETTE — Voters here and in Winthrop will decide next month if they want to adopt an alternative school organizational structure that would allow both communities to keep their schools, avoid state penalties and save taxpayers money.
The vote will be held from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, in Fayette at the town office. In Winthrop the polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office. Absentee ballots are available.
If approved, the plan would go into effect on July 1. The proposed name for the system listed in the plan is Western Kennebec County Schools AOS. However, Winthrop Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Cottrell said that doesn’t have to be the official name.
The state Legislature recently passed a law that allows school systems to create an organizational structure and have less than the required 2,500 students.
This allows those districts to comply with the law and avoid state penalties. The estimated penalties in Fayette and Winthrop combined would exceed $200,000.
Together they have just over 1,000 students.
“The reason we believe it will be so successful is each community will maintain its own schools,” Cottrell said.
Both systems have really strong community schools and each would be able to keep their own identities, Fayette School Superintendent Briane Coulthard said.
If approved, Cottrell, who works part-time, would be the superintendent of the two systems. Coulthard, who also works part-time, would be business manager. He would also remain principal of the Fayette Central School.
The proposal calls for one central office administrative and business office.
Each system would have its own local school board/committee and the power and duties would remain unchanged except for what is outlined in the agreement. There would be an AOS board of directors made up of four representatives from the Winthrop school board and two representatives from the Fayette school board that would meet two or three times a year, Cottrell said.
Votes on that board would be weighted based on population. Under the plan, each of Fayette’s members would have 78 votes and each of Winthrop’s would have 211 votes.
Each system will also keep its own real estate and personal property except for central office equipment that would be transferred to the new administrative structure.
The personnel contracts that will transfer to the AOS from each system are the central office administration, administration of transportation, administration of special education and administration of business functions including accounting, payroll, financial management, purchasing, insurance and auditing.
All other personnel contracts including teachers and education technicians, and school contractual obligations would remain with each system.
Both school departments had previously tried to reach agreements with other systems to share services after both Fayette and Winthrop voters’ rejected plans to join a regional school unit with Maranacook in the Readfield area last year.
Fayette would also retain school choice for students in grades six through 12 in eligible districts.
In the first year of the organizational structure from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, it is estimated, besides the penalty, that the schools would save a total of $2,300 net factoring in transitional costs, according to the plan. In 2011-12, it is estimated that there would be a savings of $12,500, and the third year it would be $5,000.
The two school systems would share the local costs of the central office budget on the basis of the average subsidizable student population of each individual system. The methods of cost sharing may be amended by the school committee of each unit and the voters of each unit at a town meeting.
There is also a method in the agreement that would allow the systems to withdraw from the arrangement, if one or both are not satisfied.