May 30, 2024

Towns to vote on Katahdin regional school plan

If voters approve, the Katahdin Region’s new Sunrise Peak School District will produce a $236,000 savings for East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket schools next year, officials said Tuesday.

Approved by the Maine Department of Education last week, the state-mandated plan to regionalize Katahdin schools will be discussed at a regional government meeting on Thursday and voted on in a Jan. 27 referendum.

If the voters approve, the schools will form an alternative educational structure by July 1. If voters do not OK the plan, the regionalization effort will resume.

“People say to us, ‘I don’t want to bus kids to Lincoln and Millinocket,’ but everybody will be going to the same schools they have been,” said William Hamlin of East Millinocket, a member of the regionalization committee. “Each town will run its own schools.”

Several positions will be shared and some secretarial jobs might be cut. No school closings are planned, Hamlin said.

“This is, by and large, only giving state language to what we have already been doing,” said Jennifer Olsen, a committee member from Millinocket.

The largest additional cost, Hamlin said, is the division of what Woodville paid into the regional school system – about $11,000. That town’s students will go to Lincoln Lakes schools next year.

Much of the assumed $236,000 savings, said Greg Stanley, a committee member from Medway, is found in things the towns have done already, such as hiring one superintendent and several other administrative posts.

Under the alternative organizational structure, or AOS, the towns will have committees running their schools with each committee naming three members to an AOS board.

East Millinocket will pay 28.5 percent of the local share of school funding; Millinocket, 52 percent; and Medway, 19.5 percent. However, the state has not shared the funding formula it will use to determine state education subsidies, leaving the AOS unsure how much in state funds it will get annually, Stanley said.

Stanley said the state wants to issue one lump sum annually to the AOS and allow the AOS board to determine how much money goes to the towns. That will set off endless arguing among the towns, he said.

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