FREEPORT

Freeport’s possible withdrawal from Regional School Unit 5 will be Question 1 on the Nov. 4 election ballot, Freeport Town Clerk Tracey Stevens confirmed on Monday.

It is a “Yes” or “No” question, Stevens said, which states:

“Do you favor the withdrawal of the town of Freeport from the Regional School Unit 5 subject to the terms and conditions of the withdrawal agreement dated Aug. 25, 2014.”

With the November election nearing, Freeport town officials have drafted a financial analysis for a Freeport standalone school district. Town council members have scheduled a workshop tonight to discuss the report’s preliminary findings.

Town Finance Director Abbe Yacoben and the Freeport Withdrawal Committee were tasked by the town council with drafting an analysis of the potential cost of withdrawal for Freeport. RSU 5 did not participate in the report.

“We used the 2013-14 school budget as a model to construe what it would have looked like if Freeport were its own department during that fiscal year,” said Yacoben.

In December 2013, Freeport residents voted 953 to 768 to pursue withdrawal, forming a four-member withdrawal committee tasked with crafting a Withdrawal Agreement with members of the school board, represented by the RSU 5 working group.

The terms of that agreement were also applied to the financial model used for the analysis, said Yacoben. “We did our best to make as few assumptions as we could to plot it out,” she said.

The report finds that as a standalone district, Freeport could have realized $288,876 in savings over the 2013-14 school year, if all Durham and Pownal students that attended Freeport schools that year had tuitioned in.

Tuition rates for the 2015- 16 school year are not yet available, said Yacoben, so this figure is not a predictor for future costs or savings.

Additionally, the exact number of RSU 5 students that will return to Freeport schools if the town withdraws is unknown.

In 2013-14, the year analyzed, there were 53 elementary students and 185 secondary students in RSU 5 from Durham and Pownal. The total tuition for those students, based on the rates for that year, would have been $448,320 for elementary students and $1,950,425 for secondary students.

The loss of 60 tuition students would decrease revenues, adding $343,695 to the tax burden, said Yacoben. This figure, however, does not account for a reduction in expenses without those students.

“I don’t want people to get married to this number because it is not a projection,” said Yacoben.

“I would remind people to be cautious,” she said. “We don’t know what a future school board could decide in terms of policy and if they decide to offer more services than the 2013-14 fiscal year, these costs will change.”

Some areas of the budget were also difficult to parse out on a per-town basis, said Yacoben, particularly relating to transportation, maintenance and special education services costs.

“The biggest assumptions we had to make were regarding system-wide budget items,” said Yacoben. “We tried to be reasonable in the assumptions we made.”

Many system-wide budget items were prorated with 72 percent allocated to Freeport in the analysis, Yacoben said, noting that that was roughly the percentage of the RSU 5 student population that attended Freeport schools regardless of the town they live in.

Similarly, system-wide budget items accounted for roughly 28 percent of the RSU 5 budget, said Yacoben.

Special education costs also defied easy calculation, said Yacoben.

“The withdrawal agreement says Freeport can bill for Durham and Pownal special education costs,” said Yacoben, “but we haven’t worked out the nuts and bolts of that billing.

“Because of confidentiality and privacy we don’t have specific numbers,” she added, “and we can’t predict who is going to be attending one year to the next.”

The complete financial analysis is available on the town’s website at www.freeportmaine.com. The complete Withdrawal Agreement is available on the Freeport Withdrawal Committee website at www.freeportwc.org.

The town council workshop to discuss the Freeport withdrawal financial analysis will take place at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Freeport town hall, located at 30 Main St.



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