Residents in Anson-based School Administrative District 74 will have the chance Thursday to weigh in on a proposal that would adjust the local school tax formula in a way that probably would reduce taxes for residents in Embden and New Portland, and raise them for Anson and Solon.

The proposed adjustment comes after residents in Embden voted last summer to withdraw from the four-town school district, saying the current formula for calculating school taxes means that they are paying more even though they enroll fewer students.

A public hearing on the cost sharing adjustment will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Carrabec High School. It is scheduled to be voted on in a referendum Tuesday, March 15.

“We’re really not satisfied (with the formula), but it’s something,” said Emben First Selectman Chuck Taylor, who represented the town on the Local Cost Sharing Committee that came up with the formula — which bases more local tax dollars on the enrollment of a community rather than its property tax valuation.

He said that if voters approve the new tax formula, it will send the message to Embden that other towns are willing to work with them to keep them in the district even as they go through the withdrawal process, though it’s not a guarantee Embden will stay in SAD 74.

As in every district in Maine, school funding structure in SAD 74 is dictated largely by the state, which uses its Essential Programs and Services model to determine how much money the 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 is the figure that is being reconsidered. The number each town must raise is based 55 percent on student enrollment and 45 percent on property valuation in each town.

The committee has recommended that the district adjust its local cost share formula to be based 75 percent on enrollment and 25 percent on property valuation, according to SAD 74 Superintendent Ken Coville. The adjustment from the current 55 percent enrollment/45 percent valuation would take place over the next two school years.

Coville said he couldn’t comment when asked whether he thought the referendum’s outcome would affect Embden’s dissatisfaction with its membership in SAD 74.

“That’s up to the voters,” he said. “Our job is to make sure the citizenry is as informed as possible so that their decision can be carried out by the school board.”

Elizabeth Pratt, chairwoman of the Embden Withdrawal Committee and second selectwoman in Embden, said the withdrawal process is “in limbo” while the town is working on negotiations with the school district. She said that regardless of the proposed change in cost sharing, the town plans to continue to pursue withdrawal.

The amount of money that the district raises locally varies each year, but in general it makes up about 7 percent of total school taxes, according to Coville.

If the proposed change to the cost share formula were to be enacted, it would cause about a $100,000 shift in the amount of taxes to be raised among the four towns, he said.

Pratt said the change would “make a difference, but I don’t think it would be a huge difference” in the amount of taxes paid by Embden residents.

School Board Chairman Robert Demchak, of Anson, who was also a member of the local cost sharing committee, said that the proposed formula was a compromise between all the towns and that it would significantly raise taxes for Anson residents.

“It certainly would be an adjustment, though it’s hard to say exactly how much without looking at the numbers from the state,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.