Councilors considered a request from representatives of Morrill and Searsmont to contribute money to Belfast's withdrawal analysis.

The city recently hired Portland-based Planning Decisions, Inc. (PDI), to complete an analysis that would look at the financial and educational impacts of withdrawing from Regional School Unit 20. The scope of work as defined by the council's request for proposals would cost at least $25,000 to complete, based on an estimate from PDI.

City Councilor Eric Sanders, who also serves on Belfast's withdrawal committee, said the Morrill and Searsmont withdrawal committees voted in favor of joining with the city to leave RSU 20. Sanders cited an email from Carol Robbins of Searsmont who said her town officials had allocated up to $5,000 to contribute to the analysis commissioned by Belfast.

Tony Swebilius, a representative of Morrill's withdrawal committee and a member of the RSU 20 board of directors, said town officials also authorized contributing of up to $5,000 to the analysis, as well.

“If you'd like our money, we are willing to offer our support,” Swebilius told councilors.

Swebilius then explained what questions the town of Morrill would like the analysis to answer. He said town officials want a written scope of work for the analysis; a realistic budget estimate for the new school district; and an analysis of how the district would be divided in terms of special education programs, transportation, facilities and the contents of the facilities.

He also asked that the analysis include an accurate estimate of student enrollment and address the scaling down of the central office. In terms of central office staff, Swebilius said the analysis should consider whether the district needs a full-time superintendent or if that position could be shared among the districts.

Swebilius also questioned whether there would be a need for an assistant superintendent, and noted that some positions, such as the curriculum coordinator, could potentially be handled by the principals in the schools.

Finally, Swebilius said the analysis should answer questions about the transition costs associated with creating a new school district, the number of teachers and their corresponding salaries that would remain in the district versus an average salary cost and how many towns will be included in the new school district.

After Swebilius finished speaking, City Manager Joseph Slocum asked if he had the chance to look at the proposal from PDI to which Swebilius responded he had not seen it. Slocum offered him a copy of the proposal before expressing some concern that Morrill wanted answers to questions that weren't included in the scope of work presented by PDI.

“It's never been about the money. It's about asking the same questions,” Slocum said.

However, Sanders said he believed the analysis would answer the questions that Morrill is seeking. Councilor Mike Hurley agreed and said his assessment of what Swebilius was asking did not conflict with what the city was asking PDI to do. Hurley's only concern, he said, was to make sure the analysis was completed in time to hold a vote to withdraw from RSU 20 in June.

Slocum said he would take the questions posed by Swebilius and pass them on to PDI to look at prior to a meeting with the firm Friday, Feb. 21. After that meeting, Slocum said the hope is that PDI will be able to determine if the information the city is looking for is the same as the information sought by Morrill.

Once that determination is made, Slocum said councilors could then authorize him to accept money from Morrill and Searsmont to pay for the analysis.