SAD 58 gets info on sharing costs

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SALEM TOWNSHIP — Regional School Unit 58 directors were presented information on cost-sharing options Thursday night from Superintendent Susan Pratt.

In July, she explained the formal process to revise the current system, which taxes each town based only on state-assessed property valuation. At Thursday’s meeting, she offered a comparison and a review of past budgets, local assessments and tax rates.

Over the past 10 years, the district’s population has declined, but the costs to operate the district have increased. Also, the state’s monetary contributions are based on an efficiency model calculated under a complex formula. Approximately 95 percent of the districts in Maine cannot achieve that model of efficiency, she said, because of the rural nature of the state.

“Efficient in the state’s mind is a school system of approximately 2,500 students very geographically condensed, so they don’t have transportation costs and components we might have,” Pratt said. “Maine is not geographically condensed in very many places.”

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This school year, Kingfield, Strong, Avon and Phillips have to pay $804,232 of the total budget. That amount, which is over the state’s Essential Programs and Services formula, is not necessarily a local decision, she noted.

“Every year, the state says you have to raise more for education,” Pratt said.

She said the towns could not change the cost-sharing formulas arbitrarily. Most districts choose straight valuation to raise money, but some do choose sharing through 50 percent valuation and number of students in the sending towns.

Any towns interested in pursuing the discussion of alternatives can gather signatures from at least 10 percent of the total number of voters in all four towns in the last gubernatorial election.

Pratt will hold the fourth public forum at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Avon Town Office. She also will plan to meet with selectmen in the four towns.

For those who are not able to attend these meetings, Pratt said each Town Office will have a form for comments and suggestions that can be mailed to her office at Phillips Elementary School.

Strong Elementary School Principal Felecia Pease invited the public to an open house from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, for the new prekindergarten Early Learning Center and for kindergarten, first and second grades.

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