BYRON — By a tally of 24-12 at Monday night’s annual town meeting, residents agreed to petition to withdraw from RSU 10.

They also agreed in that same article to authorize selectmen to borrow and spend up to $25,000 to hire a lawyer to start the process. In the next article, voters agreed to raise and appropriate the $25,000.

No one, however, made it clear whether the money was to be borrowed, raised or appropriated through taxation.

Voters were asked at town meeting last year if they favored withdrawal, but the majority didn’t. Instead, they wanted answers to questions and formed a committee.

Byron pays just over $200,000 in school taxes.

It has 17 students attending RSU 10 schools, although the district is charging them for 24 and a half students, Head Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said.

She said she contacted district Superintendent Tom Ward to learn why, and was told the district is two years behind on its enrollments.

The district is charging Byron from $12,000 to $19,000 per child, Simmons-Edmunds said.

RSU 10 has 2,800 students from the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.

“Folks wanted us to look into this last year,” Knapp-Veilleux said. “We started looking into it and the more we dig into it, the more we find.

“Like students who don’t even live in the town anymore, students who have graduated and gone on to college and been in college for two or more years, students who are homeschooled, students who don’t belong to any public schools, students who are enrolled in private schools, and we’re charged for all these students, and it’s getting worse,” he said.

“We’ve been charged for these students for the past two years and are still being charged.”

He said selectmen took it upon themselves in January to stop paying RSU 10.

“The money has been put into an escrow account,” Knapp-Veilleux said, answering further questions. “It’s all there. If things work out and we have to pay them, we will have all that money, and it will go right to them.

“But until we’re able to get solid answers from the school department why we’re paying for children who haven’t been in school for the past two years or been attending public school for the past two years, at that point in time, we will discuss whether we want to turn over the funds that are currently being held in escrow,” he said.

When asked why selectmen didn’t meet with Ward, Simmons-Veilleux said they tried several times and scheduled appointments, but neither Ward nor other school administrative officials ever showed up.

However, Knapp-Veilleux said, once the board decided to withhold payment, Ward set up an appointment to bring RSU 10’s financial advisor to the selectmen’s meeting at 6 p.m.  April 4 to discuss the issue.

“Now we have their attention,” Knapp-Veilleux said. “They’re going to come and see what the little town wants.”

In other town meeting business, voters repealed the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that was adopted on June 30, 2009. It was perceived as too restrictive, Knapp-Veilleux said.

It requires a 250-foot setback from the high-water mark, Simmons-Edmunds said. By repealing the ordinance, she said the town would revert to the state setback minimum of 75 feet.

“It should have never been approved,” businessman Roger Boucher said.

In municipal elections done from the floor, Simmons-Edmunds was re-elected, getting 25 votes to candidate Kent Poole’s 22 votes.

Allison Freeman was also re-elected as town clerk, treasurer and tax collector. Selectmen appointed Freeman to the positions after the previous town clerk resigned in September, Simmons-Edmunds said.

Voters then approved changing the terms of town clerk, treasurer and tax collector from one- to three-year terms. Simmons-Edmunds said it would save the town about $1,000 in training and associated annual costs.

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