OXFORD – Superintendent Mark Eastman told SAD 17 directors Monday night that he will submit a cost analysis showing how expenditures will be reduced if the school does not reorganize with another district.

But, the superintendent said he has grave concerns how the district will show a 5 percent reduction in transportation costs due in large part to soaring fuel costs.

The analysis must be submitted to Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron by Feb. 1, as part of the state’s school consolidation approval process.

“These are going to be huge, huge issues,” said Eastman of fuel and oil costs that have increased 50 percent over last year’s figures and threaten to severely impact the district’s fiscal 2009 budget-making process.

In mid December, school officials were informed that approval of the school’s alternative plan for consolidation was still pending until the district provided this and other information to the Department of Education.

SAD 17 directors unanimously voted in November to submit an alternative plan to the Department of Education by its Dec. 1 deadline, one of 39 alternative plans submitted statewide. None were rated as complete plans by Gendron. Eastman said another 47 reorganization plans were submitted by the same deadline and 46 were rated incomplete or not in compliance, including SAD 39, which is investigating reorganization with SAD 43, the Rumford area, and SAD 21 in the Dixfield-Peru area.

By filing an alternative plan, the district must prove it will reduce expenditures for administration, transportation, special education and facilities and maintenance in a way that does not adversely affect instruction programs and continue to expand collaboratives with SAD 39 along with other criteria.

“There is definitely a case to be made for expanded collaboration,” said Eastman, who told the board directors will look at cost-savings collaborations including administrative mergers.

It was unclear to Eastman and SAD 39 Superintendent Rick Colpitts how the consolidation law will affect the Region 11 technical school, which both SADs 17 and 39 have shared successfully for the past 20 years at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

“That is a major, major issue for SAD 39,” said Colpitts. “We value the program here.”

SAD 17 directors asked that the district “stand alone” after a careful study of mergers with other systems indicated a nearly $1 million district cost increase would occur if they merged with another district such as SAD 39, and that the financial penalty was too significant if voters disapproved a merger request.

Once approval is received from the commissioner for the alternative plan, SAD 17 towns will have to hold a referendum on it.


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