AUGUSTA – Communities that want to withdraw from school districts that were formed in the last round of state-mandated consolidation are now allowed to begin the secession process.

In some towns, residents are still studying their options.

Maine law requires a municipality to spend 30 months in a school district before it tries to leave.

Districts that formed under the state’s 2007 consolidation law started operating on July 1, 2009, so they reached the 30-month threshold on Jan. 1 this year. As of that date, residents could start gathering petition signatures to prompt special elections on withdrawal, the first step in a long and complex process.

The town of Starks, which joined Madison-based Regional School Unit 59 several years before the consolidation law, began its withdrawal process in August 2010. Residents will vote on the final proposal Tuesday.

In Monmouth, Richmond and Wiscasset, voters have voiced support for leaving their school districts in non-binding referenda, but people in each town said this week that they are not aware of any petitions circulating.

“We’re able to do it legally now, but nothing has been legally done yet,” said Doug Smith, chairman of the Wiscasset Educational Research Panel. “We wanted to have some information out to the public.”

Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said it would be nearly impossible for a community to complete the withdrawal process in time for next school year. Although school starts in September, the fiscal year for school budgets begins July 1.

“It’s a detailed process, and it sets a high bar,” Connerty-Marin said. “The reason, of course, is you don’t want municipalities coming and going — going in and out of districts. That’s not beneficial to anybody.” 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

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