FREEPORT — State Education Commissioner Susan Gendron offered Pownal a one-time grant of $190,000 Thursday to help alleviate the town’s increased tax burden as a result of its participation in Regional School Unit 5.

According to a press release on the RSU Web site, “the long-range goal of the grant would be to generate solutions supporting the efforts of the RSU in becoming a more efficient and effective organization. Reorganization information generated as a result of the grant will be provided to the Legislature’s Education Committee and will potentially benefit Pownal, the RSU, and the State. The impact of this monetary infusion will be studied and considered before a decision of acceptance.”

RSU 5 representatives who met with Gendron on Thursday evening in Augusta included board Chairwoman and Durham resident Laurie Poissonnier, Pownal resident Jen Kaplan, Freeport residents Beth Parker and Nelson Larkins, and Superintendent Shannon Welsh. Pownal School Board member Carol Cyr also joined the RSU representatives.

The group met with Gendron to discuss the impact the increased tax burden would have on Pownal, Freeport and Durham. Because of the RSU’s cost-sharing formula, Pownal’s reduced carry-forward funds, an increase in valuation and the additional debt sharing from Freeport and Durham, Pownal residents are facing a 36 percent tax increase in fiscal 2010.

The infusion of $190,000 will reduce Pownal’s tax increase to approximately 22 percent, about the same increase, according to Welsh, that  would be seen if the town did not join RSU 5.

According to the RSU, Gendron offered Pownal the grant to “study the longer term financial impact(s) and potential educational benefits of consolidation.” If accepted, the grant to Pownal residents would be used to offset their taxes and to “encourage RSU 5 to move forward.” The statement did not specify the source of the Department of Education grant.

The press release also said because of the grant offer, the representative group “did not request authorization for voter consideration of any amendments to the Plan.” Pownal residents upset by the proposed 36 percent tax increase have forced a June 9 vote to attempt to repeal school reorganization.

The RSU 5 board will meet Wednesday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Freeport High School to further discuss the RSU budget.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected].

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