HALLOWELL — Elected officials are calling for a review of a private group that has fallen short on a commitment to raise money for Hall-Dale Elementary School, leaving the city to pick of the tab.

The City Council has asked its finance committee to look into Team Hall-Dale and figure out how the city can help the organization follow through on its goal of raising $560,000 to pay for upgraded facilities at the school.

The organization formed in 2004 and gave $215,050 to School Administrative District 16, but they have donated only $75 since Hallowell and Farmingdale became part of Regional School Unit 2 in 2009.

Team Hall-Dale President Andrew McPherson said the organization’s bank account has about $26,000 from donations that have trickled in during the last couple of years, and he plans to write the school district a check soon.

Speaking at the City Council meeting Monday night, RSU 2 board member Shawna Corbett said people in the city are disappointed and feel their trust has been violated, especially by businesses and individuals who pledged large amounts, but backed out when the economy soured.

“We need to restore the faith in some way,” Corbett said. “We have a community that’s ready to rally, but they have to feel safe in doing that.”

City Councilor Phil Lindley made a motion to refer the matter to the council’s finance committee for review, and it was approved unanimously. She also said an audit could be helpful to public officials.

“The city and the RSU haven’t had a good accounting of what has been collected, what’s been due and what’s been paid, and that’s simply what we should be looking for,” Lindley said Tuesday.

Corbett said Tuesday that people began asking questions about Team Hall-Dale when the RSU 2 school board started work on its budget several months ago. Many are skeptical about the group’s ability to raise the rest of the money, she said.

When approving construction of a new elementary school in 2004, voters in Hallowell and Farmingdale authorized SAD 16 to accept up to $600,000 from Team Hall-Dale to pay for building features the state wouldn’t fund, such as a stage and a larger gymnasium. The municipalities retained responsibility for making debt payments if private money couldn’t be raised.

Gifts from Team Hall-Dale were placed in their own account, from which the school district periodically withdrew money to make payments. The last was $48,532 in June 2010, and the accounts balance has hovered near $15,000 since then.

“We are now at a point where the Team Hall-Dale remaining funds cannot continue to pay the debt service, which is about $46,000 to $48,000 over a year over the next 10-year period,” RSU 2 board chairwoman Dawn Gallagher said. “That cannot come from the RSU; it’s got to come from the towns.”

In the past two years, RSU 2 has used money that carried forward from SAD 16 to make the debt payments, as approved by Hallowell and Farmingdale voters in 2008.

Paying down the debt from SAD 16 would free up carry-forward funds to be spent on other purposes or to lower property taxes. RSU 2 Superintendent Virgel Hammonds said that would benefit taxpayers in Hallowell and Farmingdale only, not the entire school district.

Councilor Mark Walker, the chairman of the finance committee, said he hopes the committee can meet with McPherson and RSU 2 representatives soon to review any agreements that Team Hall-Dale may have made with the school district.

Councilor Ed Cervone, another finance committee member, said he wants to work with Team Hall-Dale to get fundraising going again.

McPherson said Tuesday that he has no issue with sharing Team Hall-Dale’s books with the committee and welcomes help with the fundraising. Most of the administrative work has fallen to him in the past couple of years, and McPherson said he has paid expenses such as postage and legal filings out of his pocket.

Councilor Steve Vellani speculated Monday that a new organization might be more effective in finishing Team Hall-Dale’s work.

“I have a sense, particularly over the last few years, that the brand of Team Hall-Dale has suffered,” Vellani said. “The reputation has been tarnished.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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