December 19, 2013

Vote set on Standish school district withdrawal study

Voters will decide next month whether to hire consultants to explore leaving SAD 6.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Standish voters will decide next month whether to explore leaving the Bonny Eagle school district.

At a special town meeting on Jan. 14, residents will vote on spending $25,000 to hire consultants to do a six-month study of the feasibility of withdrawing from School Administrative District 6.

The consultants, Ray Poulin and Norm Higgins, are former Maine superintendents who helped districts consolidate as required by a state law passed in 2007. More recently, they worked as consultants for Wiscasset, which voted in November to withdraw from Regional School Unit 12.

The Standish Town Council on Tuesday approved the warrant for the special town meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. at the Standish Municipal Building.

The town of Frye Island, which also is looking at leaving the district, would contribute $3,250 to the study, said Standish Town Manager Gordon Billington.

The consultants have said they would complete the study by June.

Students from Standish, the largest town in the district, account for more than a third of the enrollment in SAD 6. With nearly 4,000 students, more than 600 employees and an annual budget of about $45 million, it’s the third-largest district in the state, after Portland and Lewiston. Formed in 1959, it also is one of the oldest regional school districts.

The district also covers Buxton, Limington and Hollis.

Frye Island, which seceded from Standish in 1998, is a summer community that shuts down in the winter and has no students in the district’s eight public schools. In 2005, Frye Island challenged a law requiring the town to pay taxes to the district, and lost.

A few months ago, town officials sent a letter to Standish asking if it would consider looking into a withdrawal jointly. Standish town councilors, who had recently been in a disagreement with the school board over the way unanticipated state funds were spent, agreed to meet.

In October, Standish sent out a request for proposals to study the financial and educational implications of withdrawing from the district and the various possibilities for reorganizing with other communities. The town put a cap of $7,500 on the cost of the study. No responses were received by the Nov. 7 deadline. Billington, the town manager, said he then sought out consultants.

The council interviewed Poulin and Higgins earlier this month and came up with an agreement, Billington said.

He said the expenditure needs approval from voters because it requires spending beyond the annual budget.

Billington said Poulin asked to start the study before the town meeting, with the understanding that payment is contingent on the voters’ approval.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

Twitter: lesliebridgers

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