BELGRADE — A public hearing is scheduled for September for residents to weigh in on a petition calling on them to withdraw from Regional School Unit 18, the Messalonskee and China schools.

Selectmen on Tuesday accepted a petition to begin the process of withdrawing, and the issue will go to Belgrade voters in November.

The 170 signatures on the petition were all collected by Penny Morrell, most of them outside the Town Office in June.

The petition also says, “The estimated cost for fact finding is $15,000.”

Howard Holinger, chairman of the town’s Budget Committeee, said the amount was based on what a superintendent in Northport indicated that town spent in the preliminary process.

Gary Mahler, chairman of the Belgrade Board of Selectpersons, said the board was required to schedule public meetings and a public vote.

“This is a big question. This is a big process,” he said. “It can go in November or it can go sooner. That means we fund another election if we do that.”

The board opted for November.

The petition is the first step in a 22-step withdrawal process regulated by state law.

If voters approve the move, in November, the town clerk has to forward results to the superintendent, and a withdrawal agreement is then developed. Voters again would weigh in on that agreement.

Belgrade is one of five towns in the district, which also includes China, Oakland, Sidney and Rome, and has considered the issue informally previously in response to the town’s rising education costs.

Morrell, who was a member of the most recent study committee, said, “Our conclusion was it looked like there would be a significant savings, but we’re amateurs,” Morrell said previously.

Rebecca Seel, a longtime school board member from Belgrade who was on the same study committee and who attended Tuesday’s selectboard meeting, said previously that the committee concluded no significant savings were identified.

The committee reported its conclusions to selectmen in April 2016 and offered three scenarios for Belgrade residents:

• Staying with the school district at an estimated $5.8 million cost.

• Withdrawing from the school district and contracting to send all students to RSU 18 at an estimated cost of $5.7 million.

• Withdrawing from the district, operating the Belgrade Central School itself for kindergarten through grade 5, and contracting to send higher grades to RSU 18 schools at an estimated cost of a little more than $5.2 million.

Belgrade’s current share of the schools’ cost is based 75 percent on property value and 25 percent on enrollment.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams