Staff Writer

In August, 31 percent of registered voters in Moscow signed a petition to consider whether the town should leave the school district, which also serves Bingham.

Moscow residents ultimately decided to not pursue seceding, but they made their point clear: Their tax contributions to School Administrative District 13 were too high. People in Moscow pay nearly three times what Bingham residents pay per student.

For that reason, people from the two towns gathered with a mediator during the last couple months to see how they could change how the communities share the cost of educating their roughly 240 students.

They came up with a proposed solution to shift slightly more of the cost onto Bingham, and the school board unanimously approved the proposition Tuesday night. Residents of both communities will learn more at a public hearing Tuesday, Feb. 21, and have final say at the polls Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Every year, the state requires districts to raise a certain amount of money to run their schools. The districts can then choose to raise more money locally. Though the additional local dollars are only a small portion of the overall budget, districts can control the percentage each town pays.

In SAD 13, the additional local money is determined by a formula based 70 percent on property valuation and 30 percent on student population.

If the proposed change is approved by voters, the formula would be based 60 percent on valuation and 40 percent on student population.

Moscow has a low student population and high property valuations, so the change would ease the town’s financial burden, Bonnie Atwood, a Bingham school board member, said.

“I just felt that it was a goodwill gesture towards the people in Moscow. I wanted them to see that we do care,” said Atwood, who was part of the cost sharing group and proposed the 60-40 split. “I just felt that the two towns should try to work together the best they can and keep our district as a district.”

Moscow first selectman Donald Beane was on the committee and said the proposal doesn’t change the funding formula drastically.

“In Moscow at least it will help a little bit. It’s not going to amount to a lot, but it just shows they’re trying to work in good faith and trying to be fair about it,” he said.

In terms of additional local money this school year, Bingham is paying $104,550, and Moscow is paying $115,270. If the 60-40 split were in place, Bingham would be paying $110,050, and Moscow would be paying $109,760, according to data provided by the superintendent’s office.

“Every dollar is important to every constituent, and the cost sharing committee did a really excellent, thorough job,” Superintendent Virginia Rebar said.

Steve Steward, first selectman in Bingham and a member of the cost sharing committee, said he was satisfied with the proposal.

“It boils down to almost exactly even,” he said. “We worked together to come up with a solution, and I hope (residents) support it.”

Most of what the towns contribute toward the district’s budget each year is based on state-decided property valuation. This year Moscow is contributing $766,062 to the school district’s budget, paying $10,944 per Moscow student. Bingham is contributing $539,317, paying $3,852 per Bingham student.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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