Voters in School Administrative District 74 rejected an adjustment to the local school tax formula that would have shifted more of the tax burden onto residents in Anson and Solon in a referendum Tuesday.

The referendum was rejected by a total vote of 181-164. Among the individual towns in the district, the referendum was rejected 109-32 in Anson and 57-9 in Solon. It passed by a margin of 77-10 in Embden and 46-5 in New Portland.

School board Chairman Robert Demchak said he thought it was too early to say whether the results are any indication of whether Embden eventually will withdraw from the district. The referendum Tuesday was the result of committee work that was completed after Embden asked the district to reconsider how it calculates school taxes and arguing that the town pays an unfair proportion of taxes.

“It’s hard to say what will happen,” Demchak said. “Negotiations between the town and the school district are just getting started, and it depends how they go.”

Officials from Embden have said that they plan to complete the state’s 22-step withdrawal process regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s referendum, and the process will include another final vote on whether the town will leave the school district.

After a first vote by Embden residents to look into withdrawal from the school district last year, a committee including school board members and residents from each town came up with a recommendation that the district move to a formula based 75 percent on enrollment and 25 percent on property valuation.

The proposed change to the school tax formula would have applied to a portion of taxes called local additional taxes, which are determined by the school district, while the remaining portion of school taxes are dictated by the state. The local additional funds make up about 7 percent of school taxes in SAD 74, and the amount each town must contribute is based now 55 percent on enrollment and 45 percent on property valuation.

At a meeting last month, some residents questioned the proposed change and tax shift, under which Anson would have been asked to raise about $43,000 in additional school taxes and Embden would pay about $43,000 less. Solon would have had an increase of about $8,900 and New Portland would have been asked to contribute about $8,900 less.

Anson Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray said Tuesday that the town was not sure what the effect of the shift would have been on taxpayers since the town doesn’t have total budget figures for the school district or the county and will not be setting a tax rate until August.

“It may cause the tax rate to go up a little, but we don’t know yet,” Murray said. “It’s not drastic, but it is $43,000 that Anson did not have to pay before.”

With news Monday that Madison Paper Industries, one of the area’s largest employers, will be closing in May, Demchak said he thought many Anson voters who rejected the proposal were wary of increasing spending in the town.

“I think maybe Anson came out to vote today based on the announcement of the mill closing. It’s ‘OK, we don’t want to change anything right now until we see the effects of the mill closure on the entire area,'” Demchak said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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