AVON — Selectmen from Phillips and Avon hosted a public forum Saturday on the process of withdrawing from a school district.

With SAD 58’s annual budget increasing and its student population declining, taxpayers are struggling to support both their towns and their schools.

About 30 people came to hear Mark Eastman, a retired school superintendent and a consultant for towns interested in withdrawing from their districts. Eastman worked with the town of Eustis as the residents navigated the process of withdrawing from SAD 58 to form their own district four years ago.

“You’re facing the same problems as 14 of the 16 counties in the state,” he told the gathering Saturday morning. “Families are having fewer children, so the student population is declining.”

Towns withdraw from school districts for two primary reasons, Eastman said. They worry about being overburdened by property taxes and they worry about schools being closed in their communities. Some municipalities have formed an Alternative Organizational Structure, have joined other districts or have chosen to pay tuition and transportation costs to send students to other schools.

The process can take two to three years, and the town can incur $40,000 to $50,000 in legal costs, Eastman said. If the residents of either Phillips or Avon decided to withdraw from SAD 58, neither the selectmen nor the SAD 58 school board would be responsible for creating the new district. The question would go to a town-wide referendum if either town decided to pursue withdrawal.


Citizens would have to form a committee to start the process. A Maine Department of Education-approved plan would require a 22-step process, Eastman said. The town would develop a plan to educate its students, based on cost centers similar to those in SAD 58’s annual budget.

A new school unit would form a school board and hire a superintendent, support staff and a special education director. That new board also would develop a budget for the first year of operation of the new school unit and follow the DOE’s record-keeping and reporting requirements. They’d also have to project a five-year education plan.

Avon does not have any real estate obligations, but Phillips would have to take ownership of its elementary school and related property.

A withdrawing town would have to secure liability insurance for its new school unit, as well as health, property and vehicle insurance, if students are transported. They also would have to negotiate contract obligations for union employees, Eastman said.

Several in the audience asked about the cost-saving or increases for towns that withdraw. Eastman said each situation is different, based on each town’s debt obligations, staffing costs and changes to programs.

The town of Eustis’ tax rate did not go up when it withdrew from SAD 58, Eastman said.

Avon Selectman Jerry Gilchrist said this exploratory meeting was for townspeople to get information. Phillips Selectman David Vincent agreed.

“We are asking the townspeople to tell us what they want,” he said. “We get complaints that we spend too much on the schools, and we also get complaints that we don’t spend enough.”

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