The RSU 20 school board will soon consider whether or not to close Frankfort Elementary School as a means of saving money in a year when school officials report that the budget picture is particularly bleak.

Superintendent Bruce Mailloux said the board’s finance committee made the recommendation to close the school at a meeting Thursday, Feb. 3. That recommendation — Mailloux said it was the consensus of all board members present — was made after the full board requested the finance committee to investigate the possibility of closing a school and to make a recommendation on which school might be closed.

The issue is not a new one, Mailloux noted, as the board considered closing a school during budget deliberations early last year. Mailloux said as the board prepares to craft a budget for the 2011-2012 school year, they are faced with additional declines in state revenue.

“We know we won’t get even close to where we want to be [for a bottom line for the budget] this year by just cutting programs or staff,” said Mailloux. “We’ve been talking about closing a school for two years now, and it’s basically time to make a decision.”

Mailloux said the full board will take up the finance committee’s recommendation regarding the Frankfort school at its next regular meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8, at 6:30 p.m. Although that meeting is currently set to take place at the RSU 20 Central Office, Mailloux said the meeting may be moved to Belfast Area High School — which is directly behind the Central Office — in anticipation of a large audience.

Item 11.5 on the Feb. 8 agenda reads, “Discussion and Possible Action: Recommendation from the Finance/Budget Committee Regarding Closing a School Facility.”

Although the board will discuss the possibility of closing the Frankfort school at the Feb. 8 meeting, and may take action on it, Mailloux said discussions will be only the first step in a lengthy process. He said the next step — if and when a vote to close the school takes place — will be to complete a lot of paperwork at the state level. Once that paperwork is complete, a referendum vote regarding closure of the school would then take place in Frankfort. Additional steps following the referendum would depend on the outcome of the vote.

Mailloux said board members and school officials began the process of deciding which school to recommend for closure by looking at all RSU 20 schools. He acknowledged some schools — such as the district’s two high schools and two middle schools — were quickly eliminated from the list, and said some elementary schools, such as the Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, were also eliminated from the list early on due to large enrollment numbers.

“This was not a snap decision,” said Mailloux regarding the finance committee’s recommendation. “Right now, in the financial picture, declining state revenues are driving these decisions. We have got to find a way to use our facilities more efficiently.”

Mailloux said he will present information on the potential closure of the Frankfort school — such as how board members arrived at that decision and what cost savings might be realized from the closure — at the Feb. 8 meeting.