Belfast, Morrill preparing to submit withdrawal plans to RSU 20 board

By Ben Holbrook | Mar 21, 2014

Withdrawal efforts continue to move forward as Belfast votes to send a plan to the school board by early April.

The plan that Belfast voted to submit, while not yet finalized, is largely the same as the one the town submitted when it was attempting to withdraw in 2013, Belfast Attorney Kristin Collins said. The most significant change to the plan, she said, is the elimination of any contingencies that would prevent the city from leaving Regional School Unit 20.

According to a draft copy of the withdrawal plan, Belfast would assume ownership of all real and personal property located in the city. The plan also states that Belfast will “hire or contract for a part-time superintendent and business manager to operate a central administrative office, a special education director and secretary, a supervisor of operations and maintenance (building and grounds), a transportation supervisor, and an information and technology manager and staff.”

When Belfast submitted its plan in 2013, there was a contingency that stated all of the former School Administrative District towns, Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville, would vote to withdraw and also vote to reform as a new district.

Collins said the withdrawal committee was not interested in having a similar contingency in its new plan. While Belfast is not interested in including a contingency, she said some of the other towns may include a contingency in their plans that states withdrawal will take effect as long as Belfast votes to leave RSU 20.

Eric Sanders, chairman of the Belfast withdrawal committee, said the intent is to have the plan go before the RSU 20 school board during their April 8 meeting. Collins noted that if the board is unable to discuss the withdrawal plan during their meeting on April 8, it could mean the city would be unable to hold a vote during the June primary to leave RSU 20.

If that is the case, Sanders said holding a vote in September could be an option, as waiting until the November gubernatorial election would delay the formation of a new school district. He explained the June vote would give a transition team time to hire a superintendent and create a budget prior to withdrawal taking effect in 2015.

Morrill withdrawal committee member Tony Swebilius said his town is also looking to submit a plan to the RSU 20 school board for their April 8 meeting. He said during a meeting Thursday, March 13, committee members accepted the plan drafted by Collins for Belfast in principle, but asked that Collins draft a plan with language specific to Morrill.

Swebilius said he did not anticipate any substantial changes to the content of the plan that the town will submit. He did state that the committee discussed including contingency language in the plan, but said he is unsure if that language will be included in the plan being prepared by Collins.

While it is likely that Morrill will form a new district with Belfast, Swebilius said the committee is still discussing the possibility of creating a tri-town district. However, he said the the costs associated with the tri-town district may be prohibitive.

In addition to discussing the withdrawal plans, Sanders said representatives from Belmont and Swanville attended Thursday's meeting. He said Selectman Brett Armstrong indicated he wanted to discuss Swanville's options with voters before committing to a specific course of action.

Sanders also pointed out that Belfast will most likely receive the first portion of the independent audit form Chuck Lawton of Planning Decisions Inc. Lawton will provide mock budgets that address various organizational structures for the city.

The next withdrawal meeting is scheduled for April 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Morrill Community Center.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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