SALEM TOWNSHIP — Regional School Union 58’s four towns have a choice in the cost-sharing formula they use to fund their annual budgets.

Superintendent Susan Pratt said at the Thursday night meeting that the towns of Avon, Strong, Phillips and Kingfield always have shared the costs based on the state’s assessment of their property valuations. That dollar figure reflects the fiscal capacity of each town to pay its share required to receive matching funds from the state.

“The state of Maine determines the minimum recommended amount each local district must spend to provide essential programs and services to students,” she said.

The state has calculated that each town should be assessed 8.23 mills for its share of the 2015-16 budget.

Currently, Phillips pays 23.55 percent, Kingfield pays 40.04 percent, Strong pays 24.56 percent, and Avon pays 11.86 percent to support the district. The voters in the four towns approved spending $804,232 over the state-mandated minimum cost. Voters in the towns have protested that the formula doesn’t share costs equally, and Pratt said she wanted board members to have a complete understanding of the process to change the cost-sharing formula.

“I have heard a lot of different rumors about this process,” she said. “This is what this process looks like.”

First, the school board must receive a written petition of at least 10 percent of voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election in each of the four district towns. The board can then form a committee and include two municipal representatives and one local board member.

That committee must have a majority vote to proceed with any changes and must secure the services of a Maine Department of Education facilitator. The committee must hold a public hearing, a district meeting and a referendum vote in each town to make any final changes in the cost-sharing formula. Plans can allow sharing costs based on the number of students and fiscal capacity in any proportion the board chooses.

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