State gives conditional approval to plans for towns seeking to leave RSU 20

By Ben Holbrook | Aug 20, 2014
Source: File Image

The Maine Department of Education gave conditional approval to withdrawal agreements submitted by Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville.

Those plans will go to review meetings in September.

Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville submitted agreements that would allow them to leave Regional School Unit 20 and reform as a new five-town district. Northport is also seeking to leave RSU 20, but would operate its own K-8 school and share superintendent services with Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville.

Tony Bagley, RSU 20 board of directors chairman, said the MDOE gave conditional approval to the plans with only minor revisions to some of the language in the agreements. He said there were no major changes or corrections to any of the agreements.

The MDOE was able to review the withdrawal agreements in a shorter amount of time than allocated by law, in part, Bagley said, because the district and withdrawal committees informed the department about how the agreements were proceeding.

“They [MDOE] were given updates every time there was a change,” Bagley explained.

City officials in Belfast were recently updated on a reorganization plan for Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville. During an Aug. 5 council meeting, attorney Kristin Collins informed the city a committee decided the new five-town RSU will be governed by a nine member board, which is half of the current membership for the RSU 20 board.

In addition, Collins told councilors the reorganization committee also decided to base cost-sharing on valuation — the same method used by RSU 20 — with a provision that would allow the district to change that cost-sharing method in the future, according to previously published reports.

Once a draft of the reorganization plan is completed, it will be sent to the MDOE for approval and then go to a public hearing. The reorganization plan will be voted on at the same time as withdrawal in November.

Bagley said the plans were reviewed by RSU 20 directors during an Aug. 12 meeting and the agreement for Northport is scheduled for a public review meeting at Edna Drinkwater Elementary School Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.

The public review meeting for the agreements for Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 4, at Belfast Area High School at 7 p.m.

Residents in Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville will vote on whether they wish to wish to withdraw from RSU 20 Nov. 4.

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