ANSON — A committee that is examining the way towns in School Administrative District 74 share budget costs is recommending that the school board formally initiate a review of the current cost-sharing formula.

The six-person local cost-sharing committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to make the recommendation to the full school board.

“I believe the board owes it to all the towns in the district to reevaluate the cost-sharing formula,” said Shawn Cyrway, a member of the committee and a resident of Embden. “It’s clear that based on the enrollment numbers and populations that there is some disparity here.”

The local cost-sharing committee of the school board was formed after residents in Embden signed a petition asking the town to explore withdrawing from SAD 74. Town officials in Embden say many residents are unhappy with the amount they pay in taxes to the district and that they could save money by giving students school choice.

Embden is one of five communities that make up Anson-based SAD 74, which also includes New Portland, North Anson and Solon.

It also pays the most in locally raised tax money to the school district despite having a small population and fewer students than Anson and North Anson. Both the state and school district group Anson and North Anson together for budgetary purposes.

Like every district in Maine, the funding structure is largely dictated by the state, which uses its Essential Programs and Services model to determine how much money a district gets from the state and how much each town must raise in local tax dollars. The model is based on property valuation and does not take into account population or the number of students a community enrolls.

However, most districts also require additional local taxes to fund their budgets on top of what the state says each town must pay. In SAD 74, this number is based on a combination of student population and town valuation.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Ken Coville presented the committee with three different scenarios for coming up with the additional local money, which is estimated to be $896,910 in 2015-2016. The figure is part of an overall $9.23 million proposed budget. The scenarios presented Wednesday ranged from basing the additional taxes solely on student enrollment — which would decrease the amount of money required from Embden and New Portland — to basing the numbers 100 percent on valuation.

After the recommendation is made to the school board, a cost-sharing review committee will be formed including one school board member and one selectman from each town in the district, Coville said. They will come up with a recommendation that the board will vote on and possibly take to voters in a referendum.

According to figures handed out at the meeting Wednesday, Anson enrolls 331 students, while Embden enrolls 111. Yet because of a higher property valuation in Embden, the town does not receive any money from the state for education. In the proposed 2015-2016 budget, Embden residents are being asked to raise $1.6 million in local taxes while residents in Anson are being asked to raise $1.4 million.

According to Maine Revenue Services, Anson’s total municipal valuation in 2014 was $124 million while Embden’s valuation was $197,550,000. The higher valuation is likely related to the fact that Embden has a large number of bodies of water, including Embden Pond, Fahi Pond, Hancock Pond and Sandy Pond, said the town’s First Selectman, Charles Taylor.

“There are quite a few year-round residents, but with valuation increases and the county and the school affecting the tax rate, the local people have been slowly but surely driven off the ponds because they can’t afford to stay,” he said. “That’s what this group, the (SAD 74 Withdrawal Exploratory Committee) is trying to do, is find a more sustainable, more equitable deal with the district so the tax rates don’t keep skyrocketing around the ponds.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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