MADISON — The local school district is inviting the community to a series of meetings on how the district works and how the budget is formulated, while trying to anticipate whether an appeal of the town’s tax value will generate more state education aid over the next several years.

“I feel it’s important we start opening the lines of communication with our community,” said School Administrative District 59 Superintendent Todd LeRoy. “It’s important to take the time and be available to the community, especially in this year where the mill has been re-assessed and so much of our property values have been lost. There are people who are very concerned about their community, the schools and their taxes.”

The first meeting the district is hosting is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at the Madison Junior High School.

A total of seven meetings have been planned through May, when the budget process begins for the 2015-2016 school year.

The meetings follow a decision by selectmen last month to appeal the assessment of Madison property values used by the state to calculate how much it will contribute toward local education. The town contends the formula does not reflect the $150 million drop in valuation for Madison Paper. The state uses a three-year rolling average of local property valuations to calculate how much a town can aff ord to pay for essential educational programs and services. That means that unless the lower mill value is accepted right away, the state will expect Madison to pay more and will provide less assistance.

“We just don’t know. Right now we just have to assume (the state) isn’t going to and hope that they do, because if they don’t, we’re not going to see any additional revenues until the following year,” LeRoy said. “We’re talking four years out before we would see the total difference, which is a long time.”

Trying to reduce the budget over the next few years while waiting for state funding to catch up would be difficult, LeRoy said. This year, residents approved a $9.99 million budget, which included the elimination of four teaching positions and other cuts.

The year before, residents approved a $10.08 million budget that included the reduction of several positions from full-time to part-time employment.

“We just thought we had gotten to a point where we should be able to stabilize and not have to constantly be cutting and cutting. Then the mill comes along and rips the rug out right under our feet,” LeRoy said.

LeRoy said he understands other areas of the state are facing the same problem and that if Madison receives more state aid, other parts of the state would get less.

“We thought one of the best things we could do is sit down with people who are interested in talking about what’s going on and hopefully getting the right type of communication going in the community,” he said.

The first meeting, scheduled for Monday, will include a presentation by LeRoy on how the district works and will be followed by a public discussion. Future topics include the school budget, the future of the school district and proficiency-based education. Members of the public are invited to ask questions and bring any concerns they have related to the school district.

Other meeting dates are Dec. 15, Jan. 26, Feb. 23, March 16, April 13 and May 18.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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