The Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors voted 14-3 in favor of a motion to put further consideration of all courses of action regarding possible school consolidation on hold.

RSU 20 Board Chairman Tony Bagley said the directors made that decision at the Tuesday, Jan. 28, meeting at Belfast Area High School.

"I was very surprised by the overwhelming support of the motion," said Bagley Wednesday morning, Jan. 29. "I had asked for a roll call because I thought it would be close."

Bagley said he feels part of the reason for the decision was the fact that all eight district towns are now considering withdrawing from the RSU.

"My feeling is that some board members are afraid to close any school with withdrawal up in the air," he said, adding that may not have been the case for all directors who voted for the motion.

Each of the towns is in a different stage of the withdrawal process, Bagley said, and Swanville residents are the latest to give the green light to consider parting ways with the district. Searsport voters, Bagley said, will weigh in on that issue in March.

"We kind of are in a holding pattern right now," said Bagley.

With school consolidation off the table for the time being, Bagley said he expects the upcoming budget-building process will present many challenges. According to previously published reports, the district is already bracing for a budget gap of up to $2 million, and Bagley said Wednesday the state has yet to release the report detailing how much state subsidy Maine schools will receive in the coming budget year.

The state report, commonly referred to as an ED 279, typically comes to school districts in February, but last year RSU 20 received the report later than expected. The good news last year Bagley said, was that by the time the legislature was finished building the state budget the board learned RSU 20 was receiving more state money than expected.

"When they added that money back in it softened the blow a little," said Bagley. "But this year, it could be the opposite."