OXFORD – The SAD 17 Board of Directors agreed Monday to investigate the impact that Question 1 and the Carol Palesky tax cap initiative would have on school budgets and programs.

Directors plan to bring the results of their research to leaders of the district’s eight towns at a joint meeting in September.

The resolution passed by the board stops short of any agreement not to spend any savings as a result of Question 1, as Norway selectmen had requested in a letter to the school district.

Question 1, a Maine Municipal Association-backed initiative passed in June, requires that the state make good on its promise to pay 55 percent of the cost of K-12 education.

Superintendent Mark Eastman said the district needs to look at the big picture before responding to Norway or other towns that are seeking tax relief from Question 1.

The district supports property tax relief, but it also needs to meet the standards of state-required Maine Learning Results, as well as learning standards adopted by the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act.

If the Palesky tax cap passes in November, and property taxes are capped at $10 per $1,000 of assessed value, “The initiative could reduce the local funds available for education by 50 percent or more,” according to “talking points” distributed to the board by Eastman.

The objectives of the tax cap are much different than Question 1, and both of those initiatives are different than the Essential Programs and Services model for funding education passed by the Legislature in May, Eastman said.

Referring to the Palesky tax cap, he said, “Without clarification of the meaning of the initiative and a determination on which parts of it are constitutional, it will be almost impossible for municipalities and school districts to prepare their budgets for fiscal year 2006.”

Eastman said he will be talking with other school districts about joining together with SAD 17 to do the research and share the costs.

The first step for SAD 17, he said, is to ask its lawyer for a legal opinion, and then to have the Budget Committee meet and discuss the potential impact on the school budget.

Then the school board can meet with the towns, he said.

“We all need to have a clear understanding and then provide this information to the public.”


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