Newry looks to School Board on formula

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NEWRY — Town officials said Tuesday they plan to attend the School Administrative District 44 board meeting Monday to hear its decision on re-establishing a committee to review possible changes to the cost-sharing formula.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Crescent Park Elementary School.

Town Administrator Amy Bernard, Selectman Jim Largess and Newry Withdrawal Committee Chairman Jim Sysko said they plan to attend.

The request to re-establish a committee was made by the committee, which voted last month to recommend that residents vote to discontinue the withdrawal process if residents in Newry, Bethel, Greenwood and Woodstock approve changing the formula to favor Newry.

Newry voters recently authorized an additional $24,500 for the committee to continue the withdrawal process.

The cost-sharing formula for the four towns is based 100 percent on property value, which means Newry pays more than $3 million of the nearly $11 million annual budget. The town has about two dozen students who attend SAD 44 schools. The district enrollment is about 750 students.

Two previous districtwide votes — in 2016 and 2017 — to change the formula in favor of Newry failed. The latest vote on Nov. 7, 2017, was 760-779.

The committee’s 2017 proposal would have been phased in over eight years. The formula would have been based 95 percent on valuation and 5 percent student population the first two years; a 90/10 split in years three, four and five; an 88/12 split in years six and seven; and an 85/15 split in year eight.

The committee wants a third referendum on that same formula.

“The ball is in the school board’s court,” Sysko said Tuesday.

If there is a third referendum, there would be no guarantee Newry residents would not vote to continue its withdrawal effort. However, a recommendation from the committee for it to end might carry enough weight to terminate the process, members and others said.

A third vote could end the effort that began in 2014 when residents voted 82-60 to begin the withdrawal process.

In other business, the Board of Selectmen:

• Approved a three-year contract with Cross Excavation for road maintenance;

•  Approved changing maintenance of town building heating systems to Mike Field Plumbing and Heating;

•  Approved an updated personnel policy;

• Scheduled a special board meeting at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 29 at the Town Office to begin discussion of the municipal budget for the annual town meeting March 6; and

• Set its next meeting for 7:30 a.m. Feb. 6.

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