A school committee tasked with determining the fairest way to share costs within Regional School Unit 18 will hold a meeting Thursday.

The meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. at the Central Office in Oakland, will mark the second time the committee has convened since the late summer of 2016.

The cost-sharing committee last voted in December 2016 to keep the formula as it was, weighing property valuation at 75 percent and student population at 25 percent on a three-year average of both. The formula determines how much each town needs to raise in local funds for the district.

An ad hoc committee typically comes together every five years with three voting members from each of the district’s five towns, which include Oakland, Belgrade, Rome, China and Sidney. It usually decides on the formula within three or four meetings.

However, the school board for RSU 18 voted to authorize a new review of its cost-sharing formula in March after a board member alleged that the committee’s work wasn’t finished or valid.

Committee member Andrew Cook, of Rome, circulated a petition to reconvene the committee that a number of members signed.

Cook, who is also a school board member, wrote that the towns weren’t fully represented at the final meeting when the vote was taken. The district’s reorganization plan requires each town to have two representatives at meetings, he said in comments he wrote on a website called Basecamp used by the committee to share comments and files.

He also argued that the committee was still active because a formal motion to end it wasn’t made.

While school board Chairman Jim Isgro, of Sidney, and school administrators disagreed with Cook on some points, the board still voted unanimously to reconvene the committee.

In an interview Monday, Cook said he hopes the new committee will follow proper rules and protocols to create a decision that is enduring.

“The second thing I would love to see is a decision which draws the five towns together as a team around the schools achieving academic excellence,” he said. “For one reason or another, the towns are divisive. There’s a certain amount of in-fighting between the towns at the expense of students and academics.”

Cook hopes the reauthorized group will be able to draw the towns together “as a team” to come up with a solution. From his view, Cook said, the current formula doesn’t do that, but there are other variations that might.

He declined to elaborate on what those variations are before the meeting.

Laura Tracy, an Oakland resident who will represent the town on the cost-sharing committee, said that while she thinks they made a good decision, she’s happy that they are coming back together “to resolve any perception of outstanding issues.” Tracy thinks the 75-25 split is fair for all towns, which can be a hard balance to strike because “the way our formula works, it pits our towns against each other,” she said.

The committee always struggles to find a “fair and equitable” balance, as any change would affect Rome and Belgrade one way, and Oakland, China and Sidney another.

Belgrade and Rome struggle with low student counts and higher property valuations, leaving some committee members unsatisfied with the current formula or any formula that heavily weighs property valuations. However, a swing in the opposite direction could drastically affect the three other towns in the district.

Tracy, who has been on the committee previously, said the move toward a 75-25 split years ago was a big step in leveling the playing field among the towns.

She said they hope to have one meeting and finish their work.

“Hopefully we can come away from it with good resolutions,” she said.

Superintendent Carl Gartley did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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