Jay/MSAD 36 consolidation plan moves forward

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JAY – While the MSAD 58/MSAD 9 school district reorganization plan has received the bulk of public and media attention in Franklin County, another Regional Planning Committee has quietly moved forward with its own proposal.

Regional School Unit #40, if approved by school boards, the Department of Education and ultimately the voters, would consolidate MSAD 36, consisting of Livermore and Livermore Falls, and the Jay School District. The RPC voted unanimously on Sept. 30 to submit the plan for legal review by the Drummond Woodsum firm, a precursor to its acceptance by the state.

After the review, Jay Superintendent Robert Wall said, the RPC will meet again to put the finishing touches on the proposal. Then, the plan will go to the two school boards, who will decide whether or not to submit it to the state.

“The RPC will reconvene after we get a legal opinion,” Wall said, “they will review the lawyers’ recommendations and go over our exhibits. The plan really is only as strong as the exhibits. They’re the underpinnings of the whole thing.”

The exhibits include lists of property and financial data. While Wall noted that substantial short term cost savings would be extremely unlikely, he did expect that over time the new district could result in some savings for local taxpayers.

“Conceptually,” Wall said, “there are cost savings that won’t be evident until the RSU has formed.”

Administration, transportation, maintenance and special education savings are all being looked at by the RSU. Wall said that while the cost sharing portion of the plan had been a challenging one, the RPC eventually decided to base local assessments entirely off of valuation.

“We considered a number of different factors and options,” Wall said. “In the end, it came down to a realization that valuation was the fairest way to do it.”

Valuation will be used to determine the cost share of all three communities for the first five years. The new school board would then evaluate the system.

The school board will consist of 10 directors, five from Jay, two from Livermore and three from Livermore Falls. Each director will have a single vote.

If the two existing school boards send the plan to the DOE that agency would either approve it outright, or send it back asking for additional detail or format corrections. Once the DOE approves the plan, a vote must be scheduled. Wall said the districts are looking at a late January referendum vote. If approved by a majority of voters in both Jay and MSAD 36, the two districts would be on the path to reorganization. Financial penalties begin to accrue after Jan. 30, if the districts were not consolidated by then.

If voters approve the plan, a “transition team” forms, made up of school district and municipal officials. Both school boards would remain in existence until July 1, 2009, and would draft a pair of budgets. The transition team then would combine those budgets. After July 1, the Jay and MSAD 36 school boards would cease to exist, with elections being held to fill 10 positions on the new, RSU #40 board.

“The process,” Wall said, “has certainly been an interesting one. The committee members should be congratulated for working hard to produce a good plan.”

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