BETHEL — A new cost-sharing formula proposal for School Administrative District 44 will be on the Nov. 7 ballot, marking a second attempt from the district to keep Newry.
The cost-sharing formula for the $11 million school budget is calculated entirely on property values, resulting in Newry paying nearly 40 percent of the local share. The town has about two dozen students.
If Newry withdraws, Superintendent David Murphy said it would put the district in “a difficult economic situation.”
The formula proposal defeated last November, 1,402 to 1,672, would have factored student population into the equation, initially basing town shares 90 percent on property valuation and 10 percent on population, changing two years later to an 85/15 ratio. The change would have shifted some of Newry’s share to the other towns over the three years.
The new proposal would spread the same final impact over eight years.
The plan calls for a 95/5 ratio the first two years; a 90/10 ratio the next three years; an 88/12 ratio the next two years; and an 85/15 ratio beginning the eighth year.
In order to pass, a majority vote for the entire district is required.
At a public hearing Monday night at Telstar Regional High School, SAD 44 attorney Bill Stockmeyer explained the formula change proposal and took questions and comments from concerned citizens.
According to Stockmeyer, over the eight years, assuming the school budget remained the same, Newry would see roughly a 13 percent decrease in their taxes, and Bethel and Woodstock would see roughly a nine or more percent increase.
Stockmeyer said that because of their consistent and equal property valuation and student enrollment, Greenwood would not see much of a change in their taxes.
Newry Selectman Jim Largess said at the hearing that not everyone in Newry wants to leave the district, but many are concerned they are not receiving a “fair deal” with the current formula.
“My gut feeling (is that the formula might satisfy some residents),” Largess said.
Stockmeyer said that in addition to the formula change proposal, the school board has taken steps to quell Newry’s concerns, including adjusting the balance of board representation.
Newry’s share of the school board votes recently went from 6.6 percent to 20 percent, now equal with Greenwood and Woodstock. Bethel holds 40 percent of the vote.
Bethel resident Scott Cole asked if there had been any communication from the Newry Board of Selectmen or Withdrawal Committee stating that the withdrawal process will be halted, should the formula change be approved.
Stockmeyer said no, but the Newry selectmen made a formal statement supporting the formula change.
“When people vote for higher taxes, they need something in return,” Cole said.
In other business, the SAD 44 board voted Monday night to name the Telstar baseball and soccer field in memory of Marine Capt. Benjamin Cross, a 2009 graduate of Telstar, who was killed during a training exercise in August.