FORT KENT, Maine — Now that the withdrawal of Winterville Plantation from SAD 27 is all but a done deal, the district’s remaining member communities must come up with between $90,000 and $100,000 in lost revenue, or find cuts to make up the difference.
The SAD 27 Board of Directors voted this week to allow the lakeside community to separate from the district and accept its 27 elementary and high school students on a tuition basis, Superintendent Tim Doak said Thursday morning.
Even with paying the state recommended $7,300 and $10,250 per elementary and high school student, respectively, Winterville is still looking at $70,000 in educational savings, Dale Emery, chairman of the Winterville Board of Selectmen, said Wednesday afternoon.
Currently, it is costing the small lakeside community $14,000 per student as part of SAD 27.
“The [local] cost of education per child [from Winterville] is almost double that of the other member towns,” Doak told the Bangor Daily News last month. “So on the playing field for funding, they are taking a bigger hit.”
Winterville Plantation with a population of 224, is assessed a high state valuation because most of it is on the shores of St. Froid Lake. That waterfront property, while scenic, means the town receives no state funding for education, according to John Martin, SAD 27 board member representing Winterville.
For the 2013-14 fiscal year, Winterville taxpayers contributed $13,809 in local funds per pupil attending school in SAD 27, according to figures supplied by the district’s financial office.
Elsewhere in SAD 27, the local cost per student is $7,698 in Eagle Lake, $6,045 in St. Francis, $5,326 in Wallagrass, $5,314 in New Canada, $4,438 in St. John Plantation and $3,782 in Fort Kent.
It is now inevitable, according to Doak, costs are going to shift to those other member towns.
“SAD 27 is going to lose funding between $90,000 and $100,000 that will be divvied up [among] the other towns,” he said. “But if Winterville didn’t come to us to tuition students, it would have been $300,000.”
For the first year, Winterville will continue to use the SAD 27 office for administrative purposes, Doak said. The community will also pay all costs associated with transportation, special education and vocational training for its students.
“There was a lot of give and take and compromising,” Emery said. “But in the end it all worked out.”
He added advice from SAD 1 officials Superintendent Gehrig Johnson and business manager Charles Anderson along with support from Doak and SAD 27 director of finance Lucie Tabor helped his community complete the withdrawal plans.
Winterville was able to negotiate language within the agreement that would allow students to remain in a school, should that town also decide to break from SAD 27.
“That was very important to us,” Emery said. “We have students attending the school in Eagle Lake and if that town pulls out, we want our kids to remain there and not have to travel to Fort Kent.”
Winterville is about 22 miles from Fort Kent and six miles from Eagle Lake.
Maine’s commissioner of education still must sign off on the agreement and it must go to a referendum in Winterville, but all involved are confident the withdrawal will go through and be in place by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.
Officials at the Maine Department of Education are not so sure, however, noting they had not yet seen the withdrawal plan.
“We have not received a withdrawal plan for approval from Winterville and upon receipt, would have 60 days to issue a decision,” Samantha Warren, Maine Department of Education director of communications, said in an email response Wednesday. “Absent that plan, it’s difficult to imagine that even if the department was able to complete its thorough review in an extremely timely manner, that the withdrawal could be complete by July 1.”
Warren noted that, assuming the plan is approved, Winterville would need to hold its referendum, elect a school board and formulate a budget — all by July 1.
“By way of comparison, the handful of other Maine towns who have withdrawals effective this July 1 all voted back in November to do so, and had their plans to us as far back as last summer,” Warren said.