DIXFIELD – Representatives of three school districts need more information before they can recommend how operating costs would be assessed if they merge.

Nearly 30 people from SAD 21 in Dixfield, SAD 43 in Rumford and SAD 39 in Buckfield heard a presentation Thursday night by SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward on the ways assessments could be made. The subgroup responsible for making a recommendation to the entire Reorganizational Planning Committee will meet three more times to consider formulas before returning to the entire committee with a recommendation March 31 in Buckfield.

Some formulas, as presented by Ward and designed by the law firm of Drummond and Woodsum and the Department of Education’s Jim Rier, were based on student population, some on municipal valuation, and some on a combination of both.

While Rumford could benefit from a formula based on the number of students, it would be hurt by a formula based solely on valuation. Some towns, such as Mexico, would have to pay more than twice what it does now if the formula was based on student population. Some member towns from SADs 21 and 39 would also be significantly impacted.

Rumford Selectman Greg Buccina was clearly frustrated that higher educational costs could result in the need to reduce municipal services.

“If we’ve got to fund more, we’d have to cut fire, police or other services,” he said.

Barbara Chow, a SAD 21 member and Dixfield resident, was also concerned about possible tax hikes.

“We can’t take any more taxes, and this year will be worse,” she said.

Her town assesses about $29 per $1,000 valuation in property taxes.

Ward said additional configurations of the percentages of student population and municipal valuation will be figured into possible cost sharing formulas for the subgroup to review.

Committee member John Sutton of Roxbury suggested that town population, rather than student population, be used. Member Len Greaney of Rumford said strategic planning for the area was needed.

Carthage Selectman Steve Brown, a member of the cost sharing subgroup, said he hopes the cost-sharing formula will be equitable for all towns.

Also, two other subgroups, comprised of two members from each of the three districts, will meet to work out recommendations on an inventory and disposition of real and personal property and school indebtedness, and an estimate of savings from a regional school district.


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