BETHEL — SAD 44 directors held a public hearing Tuesday night to review language of the district’s cost-sharing question on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The formula is based 100 percent on property valuation in each district town. If voters approve the referendum, the formula would be based 90 percent on property valuation and 10 percent on student enrollment until 2019. After that, it would be permanently based 85 percent on property valuation and 15 percent on enrollment. 

Under the 90/10 formula, Bethel’s contribution would increase $173,736; Greenwood’s would increase $4,473; Woodstock’s would increase $90,217 and Newry’s would decrease $268,426.

Under the 85/15 split, Bethel’s contribution would increase $258,605; Greenwood’s would increase $6,709; Woodstock’s would increase $135,325; and Newry’s would drop $402,639.

The cost-sharing change stems from Newry’s desire to withdraw from the district.

Attorney Bill Stockmeyer, who facilitated the hearing in Telstar Regional High School’s auditorium, said the SAD 44 withdrawal committee recommended changing the formula to attempt to satisfy Newry’s wishes, in light of the delay in the withdrawal process. Newry, however, may still decide to withdraw. 

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Jake Clockodile, a Department of Education-approved facilitator, listened to the views of the cost-sharing committee and recommended the proposed formula for review. The school board voted to let residents decide the issue at a referendum.

During the hearing, Newry Selectman Jim Largess said the proposal is fair and “we should do it,” because the new formula was created by Clockodile, an independent, outside person. 

“It seems like a lot more money, but I think if people look at what it means to the individual taxpayer, they will be pleasantly surprised,” Largess said. He stressed that educating the district’s children is of the utmost importance.

School board Director Marcel Polak of Woodstock said he agreed about the importance of education, but reminded attendees that the change would mean a permanent increase in taxes for three of the four towns. If the school board had to increase the budget, that increase would be on top of the already greater cost, he said.

As far as the decrease in Newry’s share, Polak said of the people in Newry benefiting from the tax cut, 84 percent are second-home owners. Only 10 percent are permanent residents. The other beneficiary would be Sunday River Ski Resort, he said. 

The referendum must be approved by an overall majority vote in the district.

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