Stockton Springs residents will have the opportunity to discuss the withdrawal process during a public hearing Wednesday, March 12, prior to a vote later in the month.

The public hearing on March 12 is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall. During the meeting, residents have the chance to ask questions about the withdrawal process.

Residents will then vote on whether they favor filing a withdrawal petition and officially beginning the process of attempting to leave Regional School Unit 20 during a vote on Tuesday, March 25. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.

In addition to asking residents if they are in favor of filing the withdrawal petition to begin the process of leaving RSU 20, residents will also authorize spending up to $20,000 for costs related to the withdrawal effort.

A vote that is in favor of filing a petition for withdrawal does not mean the town has voted to leave RSU 20. Before the town can leave the district, it must form a committee to draft a plan to break away from RSU 20.

If the vote on March 25 is in favor of pursuing withdrawal, the town will then form a committee comprised of a town official, a member of the RSU 20 board of directors who represents the town, a member of the petitioner's group and a member of the general public.

That committee is tasked with creating a plan to leave RSU 20. Under state statute, the committee has 90 days to submit the plan, but can request time extensions as needed.

Once a plan is created, the committee will submit it to to the board of directors for approval and then to the Department of Education. If approved, town officials must schedule a public hearing to discuss the merits of the withdrawal plan.

Following the public hearing, the withdrawal committee will submit a finalized plan to the Department of Education for approval. If the Commissioner of Education does not recommend any changes to the plan, a date will be determined to hold a vote to leave RSU 20.

Ten days prior to the final vote, town officials will hold another public hearing to discuss the ballot question that will ask residents “Do you favor the withdrawal of the (name of municipality) from the regional school unit (name of regional school unit) subject to the terms and conditions of the withdrawal agreement dated (insert date)?  Yes    No.”

In order to withdraw from RSU 20, the total number of votes cast must equal or exceed 50 percent of the votes cast during the most recent gubernatorial election. Once that threshold is met a simple majority is needed to approve or reject the ballot.

To date, the towns of Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville have voted in favor of filing a petition for withdrawal and are in various stages of creating plans to leave RSU 20.

Searsport voted on filing its petition for withdrawal Tuesday, March 4, but results were not available as of press time.