Voters at Frye Island’s Annual Town Meeting earlier this month unanimously approved a symbolic article that would reduce their share of funding to SAD 6.

At the Saturday, Oct. 8 meeting, the 153 residents in attendance, with one abstention, voted to approve Article 9 that states in part: “To see if the voters of Frye Island are in agreement to funding a total of 50 students…per school year (at a cost of nearly $300,000 for 2005/2006)…under condition that the current school funding based on assessed valuation (at a cost of nearly $736,000 in 2005/2006) is eliminated.”

As the lone abstaining vote, island resident and chair of the SAD 6 school board Oleg Svetlichney said he did not want to voice his opinion on the issue.

“I was the only one who did not vote,” he said. “I am a state officer not a town officer. I represent the children of the district.”

But Svetlichney did say that, while the article was not binding, it was “testing the will of the people.”

When questioned about Article 9, Frye Island Town Manager Wayne Fournier said it was “an affirmation” that the town doesn’t want to get out of paying part of the SAD 6 budget.

“It’s just to get on the record that we’re not trying to get out of this without paying anything,” he said. “That may not be the approach people are interested in but (the $300,000 amount) was thought to be reasonable to pay as our portion.”

He explained that the Board of Selectmen arrived at a payment amount by using SAD 6’s figures for the cost to educate a student for a year. For this year, the figure is just under $6,000 for students from kindergarten through grade 8, and just over $6,000 per student in grades 9 through 12.

Asked if the island plans to pursue withdrawal from SAD 6 or other legal action, Fournier said the town is consulting with attorneys.

“We’ve had a discussion with our attorneys,” Fournier said. “Not so much to withdraw from SAD 6 as to be treated as other municipalities in Maine that have a right to review withdrawal from a school district.”

In 1998, Frye Island seceded from Standish on the condition that it continue to pay taxes to SAD 6.

Three years later, Frye Island tried to withdraw from the school district, arguing the summer resident-only island had no students attending SAD 6 schools. In response, the State Legislature passed LD 500, effectively preventing the island’s withdrawal and prohibiting withdrawal in the future “unless (according to LD 500) such withdrawal is first authorized by further amendment to this chapter.”

And in 2004, Frye Island questioned the constitutionality of LD 500. Under this system, the Island pays 4 percent of the cost of SAD 6 but only has a single vote out of 1,000 because, although the amount of taxes is determined by a town’s valuation, the number of votes allotted each town is determined by the number of children who attend SAD 6 schools. Frye Island has no children in attendance. They proposed striking a compromise with the District that would result in a yearly fee but would be a reduction from the 4 percent.

Though Fournier would not comment on what type of action the town of Frye Island is currently considering, he did have a comment about its timeframe.

“Our intent,” he said, “is to pursue this as quickly as we can.”

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