MINOT – Fearing that consolidation will mean higher property taxes, the Union 29 School Committee voted Tuesday night to send state Education Commissioner Susan Gendron a letter stating it really wants to keep its status, but is submitting a preliminary reorganization plan to consolidate with SAD 15.

The reorganization plan cites nine potential barriers to implementing the consolidation law. Chief among them are a cost shift that would hurt Gray and New Gloucester by about $1.2 million per year and the combination of collective bargaining contracts that could increase costs for school personnel wages and benefits in all towns.

After two months and 14 reorganization committee and subcommittee meetings, what it boiled down to for individual committee members was money, and the difficult position they would be in trying to convince voters to approve a plan that would likely raise property taxes.

Mechanic Falls School Committee Chairman Dave Griffiths urged that the three towns appeal to Gendron to be allowed to form a school system because he believed that would save money and lower local property taxes.

While Griffiths gave no specifics, he referred to a study to improve cost efficiencies in running Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland schools, begun over a year ago. Superintendent Dennis Duquette, who was hired in July, has begun implementing it and cost savings are already being seen.

The vote directed Duquette to prepare a letter to Gendron detailing the cost savings the three towns could realize by forming a school system.

Duquette said that while the letter will be mailed with the reorganization plan, he is scheduled to meet with Department of Education officials Dec. 5 and will discuss Union 29’s proposal to stand alone then.


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