[Freeport, Pownal, Durham] Press release on May 18 budget meeting

PRESS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release:  May 19, 2009

RSU No. 5

For More Information contact:  Laurie Poissonnier, Board Chair

                              Phone Number:  353-8727

                              Email:  lpoissonnier@gmail.com 

                              Shannon L. Welsh, Superintendent

                              Phone Number:  212-8529

                              Email:  welshs@rsu5.or 

The RSU No. 5 Board of Directors hosted a joint meeting of municipal and current school officials with Commissioner of Education Susan Gendron on Monday, May 18, 2009 in the Freeport High School cafeteria. The purpose of the meeting was to search for a resolution to the current budget challenges facing the RSU. 

Commissioner Gendron restated that she does not have authorization to delay the implementation date of the RSU.  Current law requires systems to be operational by July 1, 2009.   The Commissioner met with Assistant Attorney General Sarah Forster to confirm that if the RSU is not operational by July 1, 2009, the towns of Durham, Freeport, and Pownal would not have a legal vehicle to operate or levy taxes for public education.  

In an attempt to help RSU No. 5 move forward, the Commissioner suggested that M.S.A.D. #62 Board of Directors and the Freeport Town Council consider a waiver on the tuition premium currently paid for students tuitioned to Freeport High School.  The premium, approximately $45,000, is part of a tuition contract between M.S.A.D. #62 and Freeport for funding toward debt on the high school.  The waiver would enable Pownal to use the $45,000 as carry-forward to off-set the tax impact for the proposed 2009-2010 budget. 

The Commissioner offered assistance in the form of a facilitator to help the RSU Board look at the cost sharing and debt sharing agreements in the current plan.  RSU Board chairman Laurie Poissonnier agreed to look at numbers but did not agree to discuss these items at this time as any proposed changes to the Reorganization Plan require approval in a referendum vote by a combined majority of the voters in Durham, Freeport, and Pownal.

An option that needs further research is whether the RSU Board of Directors could propose an amendment to the Reorganization Plan to allow creation of an Alternative Organization Structure (AOS).  If it is determined that this is a legal option, it would require negotiation of all elements of the Plan, which could not be completed by July 1, 2009 but could be negotiated over the next year. 

Another option discussed was a possible amendment to a current legislative bill that would create a delay in the organizational date for RSU No. 5.  Legislative representatives David Van Wie and Susan Austin reported that language for emergency legislation has been drafted that will remove both penalties and liability for delaying the formation of the RSU.  Leadership is currently discussing this amendment.  Representative David Van Wie further noted that the RSU Board should work as though the legislation will not go through due to the tight timeline to prepare for July 1st 

Following an in-depth discussion of options and legal implications, RSU No. 5 Board Chair Laurie Poissonnier summarized the following next steps as a result of these discussions: 

  • The RSU Board will move forward on budget deliberations to have an approved budget prior to July 1.  The RSU Board will review the budget in detail at their upcoming meeting on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. in the Freeport High School cafeteria.
  • The Commissioner will investigate drafting special emergency legislation authorizing the use of Pownal’s 2009 state valuation for Pownal by effectively smoothing the one-year spike in valuation.  Dick Spenser, attorney with Drummond Woodsum, noted that there is precedent for the legislature approving this request.
  • The M.S.A.D. #62 Board of Directors and the Freeport Town Council will consider meeting to discuss the possible waiver on the tuition premium currently paid for students tuitioned to Freeport High School.
  • The RSU Board may consider the assistance in the form of a State-funded facilitator to help the RSU Board look at the cost sharing and debt sharing agreements to obtain updated and projected data.  The RSU No. 5 Board of Directors may consider whether to renegotiate the cost sharing or debt sharing agreement approved in the Reorganization Plan. 
  • The legislature will consider release of penalty funds following the referendum vote in November on consideration of repeal of the consolidation law.

 

The RSU Board encourages citizens to attend the upcoming budget meetings.  Key upcoming dates in the budget process are:

  • May 27, 2009 – Continued deliberation on budget articles. 
  • June 3, 2009 – Special meeting for a final Board vote on budget.  In this meeting, the Board will make their final vote on the budget to send to the Annual Budget Meeting.
  • June 16, 2009 – Annual Budget Meeting.  At this meeting, registered voters of all three towns will deliberate on the budget approved by the Board and vote on an Article-by-Article basis, with the option of proposing changes through amendments on each Article.  The meeting will not end until a simple majority approves a budget to send to referendum.  Please note that you must register to vote at the town office prior to the Annual Budget Meeting.
  • June 25, 2009 – Budget Validation Referendum.  Voters of all three towns will enter a yes or no vote on the Budget approved at the Annual Budget meeting at the voting booth in each town.  A simple combined majority of the voters in the three towns is needed to approve the budget.  If the voters reject the budget, the Board will need to reconsider the budget and work through both the Annual Budget Meeting and the Budget Validation Referendum until the voters approve a budget.  If a final budget is not approved until after July 1, 2009, the most recent budget approved by the RSU Board will be in effect until the voters approve a final budget.

The Board has created a form to capture feedback from citizens about the budget on an Article-by-Article basis.  This feedback will be distributed to all Board members by email and will be considered as the group moves through the budget approval process. 

For more information contact:  Shannon Welsh, Superintendent