BETHEL — Since the vote to change School Administrative District 44’s cost-sharing formula failed in November, the Newry Withdrawal Committee is moving forward with the process, but not without resistance.

Residents voted Nov. 8 not to change the district’s cost-sharing formula from 100 percent valuation to 90 percent valuation and 10 percent student enrollment for fiscal years 2018-19, and to 85 percent valuation and 15 percent student enrollment from 2020 on.

The change would have meant a tax increase for residents in Bethel, Greenwood and Woodstock, and a decrease for Newry residents.

If Newry withdraws from the school system, taxes for the other towns will increase dramatically because Newry contributes over $3 million a year to the district budget.

“Yet they took the chance,” said Jim Sysko of the Newry Withdrawal Committee.
“(The formula change) would have been their best option, in my opinion, because Newry is not going to give up with the withdrawal process. The gamble was set up by Marcel Polack from Woodstock, who said Newry cannot withdraw because the school district will not agree to negotiate.”

But Scott Cole, former town manager and longtime resident of Bethel, said negotiating isn’t even the right word.


“When you negotiate, both parties think they’re going to get something out of it. What’s in it for the school system? They give Newry a break so they can pay more? Where’s the back and forth? The school board did their job. If they stonewalled them, so be it. They didn’t see anything in the deal that was good enough,” Cole said.

Sysko disagreed.

“Newry wants to have a say — 70 percent of our tax money goes to SAD 44, but we only have a 4 percent vote on the school board. We have 25 students that attend, so we pay about $120,000 per child, versus the state tuition rate, which is only $10,000,” Sysko said.

But Cole said those numbers are a “seductive red herring” and do not hold up when scrutinized.

“Every single property owner in the towns is paying at the same mill rate for schools and that’s the way we intend to keep it,” Cole said. “Tax bills are based on value, votes are based on people. That’s the deal. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, one man, one vote. Following (Sysko’s) logic, the rich man should get more votes.”

The latest proposal from the Withdrawal Committee states that if Newry were to withdraw, the town would send its students to SAD 44 on a tuition basis and provide targeted funds as agreed upon with the district to supplement the tuition.


“I guarantee all that wouldn’t add up to the $3 million they pay now,” Cole said. “And whatever is less than $3 million has to be made up through either expenditure reductions or increased taxes for somebody else, and my guess is it’d be increased taxes for everybody else.”

At the Withdrawal Committee’s last meeting, Cole advised members he has contacted state Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, and state Reps. Fran Head, R-Bethel, and John Madigan, D-Rumford, to get their support in stopping the withdrawal process. The lawmakers could submit a bill halting the withdrawal.

“Because of the statements made by Scott Cole, we called Lisa Keim and left all the information with her assistant because we want to stop that law,” Sysko said.

The Withdrawal Committee will meet at 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Town Office.

Member Bonnie Largess said Newry will need to vote as a whole on whether to further fund the withdrawal process and that the vote will most likely take place at the March 1 town meeting.

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