NEWRY — Dozens of residents attended a public hearing Tuesday evening at the Bear River Grange Hall to discuss whether to file a petition to withdraw from SAD 44.

Town Administrator Loretta Powers said petitioners who sought to start the process had the correct number of signatures — 10 percent of the number of Newry voters at the last gubernatorial election. Resident Jim Sysko circulated the petition.

Residents will be asked next month if they favor filing a petition for withdrawal with the board of directors of SAD 44 and the state commissioner of education, authorizing the Withdrawal Committee to spend $50,000 and authorizing the municipal officers to issue notes in the name of the town or otherwise pledge the credit of the town for up to $50,000 for the effort.

Selectman Brooks Morton said the public hearing and vote are the third of 22 steps to withdraw from the district.

“Right now, the tentative date for the vote is Sept. 16,” Morton said.

“Tonight is all about voicing your concerns and asking any questions that you have,” Morton said.

One resident asked Morton where the $50,000 would come from.

“The selectmen decided that it would be taken out of surplus,” Morton said. “The money is going to go toward paying for lawyer fees and consultant fees.”

Later in the meeting, Sysko said Newry residents are paying somewhere between $2.8 million and $2.9 million to SAD 44.

Sysko and other petitioners crafted an information sheet stating the problems they were attempting to solve by withdrawing from SAD 44 and what their vision was for the future.

“Our vision for where we wish the town to be, in terms of how our kids are educated, is to allow our parents to choose the best educational alternatives for their children,” the sheet said. “Instead of pouring money into the district, parents should be able to choose where they school their children with the town paying, up to a point.”

The sheet also said that if Newry withdrew from the district, “the amount of money the town spends on schooling will drop, parents will be able to tuition their children to any school they prefer,” and “school funding decisions will be able to be made at the town level, where the funding actually occurs.”

Sysko said Bethel is paying $7,600 per student, which is $2,400 less than the state average for high school tuition.

“Newry is paying almost $120,000 a kid,” Sysko said. “Bethel has around 250 students attending school, while Newry has 24 or 25 kids. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

One resident asked Sysko why Newry didn’t approach the other towns in SAD 44 about changing the cost-sharing formula for the SAD 44 budget.

“If we wanted the town of Newry to change their share of the cost, the other towns would have to favor raising their taxes,” Sysko said.

According to the 2014-15 school budget review, Newry has the highest share, at $2.9 million, with Bethel second at $2.8 million.

Resident Steve Wight said he thought it was beneficial for the town to remain in SAD 44 because the incoming freshmen would be the first students to receive a performance-based degree.

“If we’re a part of the district, we get a say in how the future of that policy plays out,” Wight said. “If we drop out, we lose an important chance to help our children’s future.”

One resident told Wight that since Newry only has two school board members on the board of directors, it only has a “six percent vote” for any decisions made.

“That may be true, but they also have the opportunity to speak their minds, which can have an effect on how others vote,” Wight said.

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