POLAND — The RSU 16 school board voted Monday not to move forward with a “regional service center” plan promoted by the state.

The decision will cost the Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls school system $78,000 in state funding next year and $161,000 the year after. But Superintendent Tina Meserve said board members felt there were too many problems with the plan that calls for school districts to consolidate and streamline student services while adding administration and paying an executive director. 

“There are too many unanswered questions,” Meserve said. “The fact you have to hire an executive director and have a board, and (pay) the legal costs to put an inter-local agreement together without information about how the funding is going to work and how you get voter approval, and to get all of that done in a short amount of time just doesn’t seem reasonable.”

Meserve said the state set a deadline of Nov. 30, too soon for the school system to plot out an agreement.

RSU 16 isn’t the only school system to go against the state. School leaders in both Lewiston and Auburn have also said they don’t like the idea

The push comes from a new Maine law that takes away state money for schools — $46 per student next year, $92 the year after that — and returns some funding only to districts that join to create regional service centers to streamline student services.

But while school leaders have said they’re all for sharing services, they don’t like having to put together a board and hire a director to do that service sharing. They also don’t like the fact that regional service center employees won’t be overseen by the local school system. And they believe that those workers won’t be classified as public school employees, making them ineligible for the Maine Public Employees Retirement System and making recruitment difficult.  

“We don’t want to lose the subsidy,” Meserve said. “Superintendents in the region are all talking about what potential there might be, but the barrier keeps coming back. You have to have an executive director, a separate board and the fact that employees won’t be in the Maine State Retirement all seem like barriers too big to overcome by Nov. 30.”

The RSU 16 board voted to “wait and watch,” Meserve said.

“See what clarifications come from the Department of Education and see if the law changes once they really look at what the implications are at the local level,” she said.

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