BUCKFIELD — Voters may be given a chance to decide if they want to continue with the effort to withdraw from RSU 10 and add more funding for the committee directed to negotiate the departure.

At its meeting Wednesday evening, the Buckfield Withdrawal Committee voted to request another deadline extension from the Department of Education in order to ask voters in June if they still want to pursue withdrawal. Residents will also be asked if they are willing to provide an additional $30,000 that may be needed to complete the process correctly.

The committee is tasked with drawing up an agreement for the town to withdraw from the 12-town school district. State law requires the town to draft an agreement, negotiate it with the RSU 10 school board and have it approved by the DOE within 90 days, but that deadline was extended to March 4. 

Voters approved the withdrawal effort last June and provided the committee with a $20,000 budget.

Committee Chairman Glen Holmes said informal conversations he had with an attorney from Bernstein Shur law firm indicated that the committee’s budget would not be nearly enough to hire the professional assistance the committee voted to retain in December.

Holmes said he was led to understand that $50,000 was the average cost of putting together a proper agreement. He said he was “apprehensive” about starting the process and running out of money halfway through. 

He said, “$20,000 sounds like a lot of money until you hire a lawyer.”

He suggested that the committee recast the withdrawal question to voters, with the true cost of drawing up and negotiating an agreement included, to gauge interest before continuing with the process. He said the DOE had no objection to returning the issue to voters.

A deadline extension would also give the committee enough time to get some cost estimates from professional consultants for their services.

Both Holmes and Committee member Cheryl Coffman noted that many residents they met who originally voted for withdrawal were now not interested in moving forward. 

When Buckfield voted to pull out of the school district, it was widely believed that Sumner and Hartford would also pursue withdrawal and the three might be able to re-form SAD 39, which was consolidated with SADs 43 and 21 to form RSU 10 in 2009. 

Sumner voters rejected a withdrawal measure in November and Hartford has taken no steps to pull out.

“I think that a lot of the thinking has changed,” Coffman said. “A lot of people’s thinking was that with the three towns it might have been a doable thing. Now, they’re really having second thoughts about it.”

Coffman said voters would probably not be interested in burdening themselves with more spending for the withdrawal push. 

Jerry Wiley, a committee member and chairman of the RSU 10 board of directors, agreed that the issue should be brought to voters again.

“We’re just spinning our wheels,” Wiley said. “We go back to voters and ask them for another $20,000 to $30,000, which is what it’s going to take to do it right and do it legally.”

The three members voted to ask for an extension from the DOE and ask selectmen put the withdrawal question on the ballot in June.

Committee member Judy Berg, who has been a supporter of the withdrawal process, was not at the meeting. 

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