EMBDEN — Residents are being asked to vote in a referendum to determine whether the town should withdraw from the local school district, Anson-based School Administrative District 74, according to a letter sent from the town’s selectmen to residents.

The referendum, scheduled for June 9, is only the second step in a 22-step process the Maine Department of Education has outlined for withdrawal and follows the submission of a petition signed by 101 people asking the town to explore leaving the district. A number of public meetings related to the issue and the 2015-2016 school district budget are scheduled for this week.

On Tuesday, the SAD 74 Withdrawal Exploratory Committee will meet at 6 p.m. at the Embden Town Office. The meeting will be followed by a special SAD 74 School Board committee meeting on Wednesday and a public hearing on the proposed 2015-2016 budget on Thursday.

Town officials in Embden say the withdrawal proposal is related to the amount of money Embden residents are asked to raise in taxes to fund the school budget. That number is largely determined by the state’s Essential Programs and Services funding model, which bases state funding to schools on property tax values. A representative from the department was not available to speak about the model on Monday, a department spokeswoman said.

According to the proposed 2015-2016 school budget, the state is asking residents in Embden to raise about $1.3 million in local tax dollars to fund next year’s school budget, while Anson is being asked to spend about 1 million in locally raised tax dollars. According to the state’s most recent enrollment data, Embden enrolls about one-third the number of students as Anson, but because Embden has higher property tax values, the state has determined that they do not qualify for state education subsidies.

For the most part the district does not have control over the state’s funding formula, but there is a portion of the budget funded by “additional local” tax dollars, said SAD 74 Superintendent Ken Coville. This money makes up costs that are not covered by state funding or local taxes dictated by the state.

It amounts to $896,910 of this year’s proposed $9.4 million budget.

At the request of residents in Embden, members of the SAD 74 School Board have formed a local cost sharing committee to evaluate how the district asks towns to come up with “additional local” money.

In the past each town in the district has been asked to contribute an amount that is based 55 percent on enrollment numbers and 45 percent on property valuation. The committee will meet Wednesday to come up with a recommendation as to whether a change to the formula is something they want to pursue.

“The meeting isn’t to come up with a new formula, but to see if it should be something to be reviewed and considered for a change,” Coville said.

So far there has been minimal communication between the district and the SAD 74 withdrawal exploratory committee, he said.

The letter sent to Embden residents on Friday asks them to consider withdrawal as a way to establish a new relationship with the school district “where we will have an equitable standing for policy issues and budget matters” and a “truly equitable cost-share agreement.” The possibility of withdrawal is also a chance for Embden residents to consider having school choice, it says.

The referendum scheduled for June 9 will ask voters if they want to form a withdrawal committee, authorize the committee to spend $50,000 and file a petition with the school board in SAD 74 and the Commissioner of Education for withdrawal.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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