Searsport, Stockton Springs look to start withdrawal efforts

Every town in RSU 20 pursuing withdrawal
By Ben Holbrook | Jan 13, 2014
Source: File Image

Residents in Searsport and Stockton Springs have gathered enough signatures to allow town officials to schedule a vote to officially start the withdrawal process from Regional School Unit 20.

As part of the withdrawal process, a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the 2010 gubernatorial election must be submitted to the town. Once the signatures are received and verified, town officials are required to set a date to hold an election to determine whether residents wish to officially start the withdrawal process.

Officials in Searsport said residents were soliciting signatures over the weekend, but no petitions have been filed with the town as of the morning of Monday, Jan. 13.

Petitioners in Searsport needed to gather 122 valid signatures before an election date can be set to officially start the withdrawal process.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Town Clerk Deb Plourde said the town received enough signatures and the petitions would be presented to the board of selectmen at their next meeting on Jan. 21. Plourde said she anticipated the selectmen would set a date for the vote to determine if residents wish to officially start the withdrawal process during that meeting.

Stockton Springs Town Manager Rich Couch said Selectman Lesley Cosmano held an informational forum over the weekend to gauge the interest of residents in starting the withdrawal process. Couch said about 46 residents attended the informational gathering, as well as some residents from Searsport.

Cosmano told The Republican Journal that residents were “overwhelmingly” in favor of moving forward with the withdrawal efforts. She said several residents expressed interest in gathering signatures for the petitions.

Couch said based on election results from the 2010 gubernatorial election, petitioners needed to gather and submit 83 valid signatures before officials can set a date to hold a vote to officially begin the withdrawal process.

As of the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 14, town officials have verified 210 of the required 83 signatures. Like Searsport, Stockton Springs officials anticipated the petitions would be presented to the Board of Selectmen at their next regularly scheduled meeting to set an election date for residents to vote on officially starting the withdrawal process.

Currently, Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport and Searsmont have voted to pursue withdrawal from RSU 20. Swanville has received petitions to hold an election to start the withdrawal process and a vote is scheduled for Jan. 28.

Comments (17)
Posted by: Alan Wood | Jan 18, 2014 11:40

The objectives of the RSU is to run the district more cost effective.  Consolidation is only one approach and would need 2/3 of the directors and the individual towns to vote to close their towns schools. Other approaches are to combine classes and increase class sizes.The taxpayers would love for Searsport and Belfast to combine high schools, but the individual towns do not like this arrangement so far and Searsport has fairly new modern schools.  The board has a task to keep the RSU together for future savings and I would hope Searsport-Stockton would have a think tank to explore staying together and the board would meet with this group.  Right now we have 2.3 million less coming from the state this year so taxes will have to be increased around 20% again; unless we come up with creative approaches.Come to the meetings with ideas and the board will listen. Another figure is misleading is that it costs $17000 per year to send students to Searsport.  That figure is high as the actual costs are around $1200 because the high school teachers also teach Middle School. Next Tues. at BAHS Band Room 6:30PM .

Alan Wood

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Jan 18, 2014 06:08

Oh yeah, Harold. The Base Closure Committee worked out just find, no rich folks and policitians got involved at that all. But here is an idea that is just insane enough to work. Why don't the 9,900 voters in this RSU that never go to a meeting get off and go sit through those meetings like the rest of us and see first hand what is happening. That should clear up any misconceptions before they start. I know it's rather rude of me to suggest that people do what there are suppose to be doing in this first place. But I don't really see anyone else telling them. Lead, follow or stay behind & whine.

Posted by: Harold Richardson | Jan 17, 2014 14:52

Listen to me now and believe me later-nothing is going to get done with any of this.  Way too much obfuscation, finger pointing, people scared for their jobs or losing their favorite teacher/sports team. The hurdles in place are too high.  "It's for the kids" wins every time.  Fact is the kids are the ones missing out the most because so much is being wasted on excess.  There aren't enough kids to fill all these buildings and employ all these people, simple as that.  Could all agree on an outside party-re base closing commission type thing- someone who really doesn't care either way-to formulate a long range sensible plan-I doubt it but that is the only way I see out of this.

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Jan 17, 2014 12:47

Mike is correct when he says that he forwarded me the email that Kristin sent to the people invited to the meeting. I guess she couldn't find an email address, convientently provided in the byline of the town columnist for the past year. But Mike did forward. He didn't say, "y'all come on down." He gave her my email address and advised her that he forwarded her email to me. So, it was kind of a confusing invitation. However I didn't have anything else to add anyway. I think the problem is that one is trying  to get a bigger the slice of the pie at the expense of the other. That's not going to work.

Mike and I got the confusion all cleared up today with emails. It does get confusing. Roxanne just had to quell a rumor about the of the recent BOD video. I just recently had to clear one up that she started about me trying to replace all the paid professionals with volunteers. It's a jungle our here. But, we're trying.

Posted by: mike hurley | Jan 17, 2014 11:22

just a small point here: I sent an invitation to Jeff Davis at his home email to invite him to the Jan. 9 meeting. At the same time we were fielding letters from the Stockton select board pressuring us on who was "authorized" to speak for Stockton (when no one on the committee was authorized by anyone to speak on behalf of any town) and making it very clear that they did not approve of Jeff participating. When Jeff did not show up we assumed he'd decided not to participate. All I can say was we made every effort to invite and include representatives from Stockton and Searsport with the only caveat being we were not inviting school board members or RSU 20 staff.


Posted by: Roxanna Morse | Jan 17, 2014 07:20

There were no difficulties with the video.  It will be broadcast tonight on BCTV and probably put up on the RSU 20 website before that.

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Jan 17, 2014 06:15

Well, Gene. Why you form a think tank to see if you can do something to stem the rising tide of financial suicide in the area? If you do, make sure they have my email address. They lost it during the last think tank and forgot to invite me the final meeting.

Posted by: Gene Newton | Jan 16, 2014 22:59

It's financial suicide for Searsport and/or Stockton Springs to withdraw.

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 16, 2014 15:45

I fully understand why Searsport and Stockton Springs have decided to launch a withdrawal effort. They feel they want to get out of the RSU before their high school and middle school are closed. After all the verbal hype for the withdrawal of the six towns that used to be MSAD # 34 last year, why would they want to stay? Northport's working hard to withdraw to keep their school open AND provide a unique community school education for the students, similar to what Appleton, Hope, & Lincolnville offer their students. I could say more, but I'll just leave it at that.

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 16, 2014 15:37

I've heard there were "production difficulties" with the video of the 1/14/14 school board meeting, so we probably aren't going to see it. That's okay, they're students and learning. We'll just have to have the information about what the actual cost of educating students at SDHS/MS and about the "cost centers" repeated at the public forums. To my way of thinking, taxpayers, staff, students, and citizens are entitled to the "real figures", not some inflated ones.

Posted by: Harold Richardson | Jan 15, 2014 12:41

I'm not saying you're wrong Ms Riley.  It's a little disturbing that all 8 towns are moving to withdraw, tempers are growing, schools are being threatened with closure, and the data that's been provided by the RSU to make these decisions may be incorrect.  The people running this RSU are being paid a very good salary to get this stuff right and that information has been out there for months. 

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 15, 2014 12:06

I apologize. I just checked the RSU 20 website and the video of last night's school board meeting hasn't been posted yet. When it is I think it'll be most enlightening to view it. The RSU is supposed to be on Facebook & Twitter now, as well, although I haven't viewed those sites.

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 15, 2014 11:24

Don't take my word for it, go onto the site and watch the video of last night's school board meeting where Supt. Carpenter was asked to explain the actual costs of educating students @ Searsport High School and about the "cost centers" in the budget and his clear, concise explanations.

Posted by: Harold Richardson | Jan 15, 2014 10:35

Speaking as just a taxpayer in Belfast I have to say that the most important thing that management and the directors of this RSU can do is provide accurate information to the people paying these bills.  If it is fact true as Ms Riley states that the figures for Searsport are wrong, I don't know what to think.  Those numbers have been posted for 4 months on the RSU website and are still today, stating that the average cost per student for that high school is over 17k.  A while back, the chairman of the finance committee was quoted in this paper as saying this was a revenue problem not a spending problem and at the same time the superintendant was saying the directors didn't have the stomach to do what had to be done.  What are people supposed to think about what is going on here.  I am willing to bet that a year from now, the only thing different in regards to this mess will be another hike in our property taxes.  

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 15, 2014 09:41

It came out in last nights board meeting, 1/14/14, that it does not cost 17,000 per student to educate Searsport High School Students, it is in fact 12,000 or maybe even less.


Posted by: Leslie Lavender | Jan 15, 2014 07:40

Our property taxes have increased by 10% every year. Stockton is a lovely place to live, but for the cost of sending the kids to Searsport HS, they could go to a first-rate private school (if there were any). Clearly, something has to give. The death-rate in Maine exceeds the birth-rate. Nobody want to "punish" the children, but it seems that with 73 cents of every dollar in property taxes going to support educating the children, other segments of the population are being over-looked. There are areas where change could be helpful, but there are too many "stake-holders" who want to protect their turf (teachers union, administrators in the top-heavy central office, board members.....). It goes on and on with no significant change and the costs keep going up. One argument is that closing schools leads to lowered property values, but so will abandoned homes when property owners can no longer pay their taxes. Leslie Lavender

Posted by: Debora Riley | Jan 14, 2014 15:14

Being from Northport and knowing how it feels to have your local community school designated to be closed in the popular consolidation plans,  I fully understand how Searsport and Stockton Springs residents/students feel. I could see this coming a mile away. I think it's AWESOME when communities come together to support their schools.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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