Residents in Stockton Springs voted overwhelmingly in favor of officially beginning the withdrawal process from Regional School Unit 20.

The final tally for the vote held Tuesday, March 25, was 246 in favor to 28 against. A total of 274 residents cast a ballot either in person or by absentee vote, town officials said.

In addition to moving forward with efforts to leave RSU 20, residents also approved spending up to $20,000 for costs related to withdrawal.

The next step is for Stockton Springs to 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.

With the successful vote Tuesday, all eight towns in the district — Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Swanville — have voted in favor of filing a petition for withdrawal and are in various stages of creating plans to leave RSU 20.