MSMA: Penalties delayed, new 279s being issued

Maine School Management Association

June 22, 2009

Penalties delayed, new 279s being issued

Gov. John Baldacci on June 19 signed into law a bill that delays penalties for districts that did not vote to consolidate – legislation that was overwhelmingly supported in the Legislature.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James Schatz, D-Blue Hill, delays for one year the $5 million in penalties on 110 communities that did not consolidate, as required by law. The vote in the House was 110-to-36 and 20-to-15 in the Senate.

New 279s – delineating General Purpose Aid – will be sent out soon by the Department of Education (DOE) eliminating the penalty line.

The penalty money was initially going to be kept in a separate account until after the November referendum on complete repeal of the school consolidation law. The Legislature in January would then have had to decide what to do with the funds, since current law is silent on their redistribution.

Jim Rier of the DOE said new 279s will soon be issued that eliminate the penalty line for the upcoming fiscal year. All districts will receive new spreadsheets to reflect any other changes made in the budget and auditing adjustments.

In addition to delaying penalties for one year for the 110 communities that didn’t comply with the law, the Legislature also voted as part of the biennial budget to delay penalties for one year for the 15 districts that had voted for consolidation, but their partners did not.

In another bill, the Legislature voted to exempt from the consolidation law 12 school administrative units encompassed by SAD 12, Union 37 and Union 60, based on the argument that they are geographically isolated, similar to islands. Islands were exempt in the original consolidation law passed in 2007.