OAKLAND — A new Regional School Unit 18 Cost Sharing Committee voted 8-7 Thursday night to keep the current formula that determines how much the towns of Oakland, Belgrade, Sidney, Rome and China must raise in local money for the district.

The 75-25 cost sharing formula means 75 percent is based on valuation on a three-year average and 25 percent is based on student enrollment, also on a three-year average. Cost sharing would be 75-25 for any new debt the district incurs, according to Rich Abramson, chairman of the committee who facilitated Thursday’s session.

Committee member Mary-Anne LaMarre, who also is a school board member from Oakland, made the motion to maintain the current formula. Sherry Gilbert, an Oakland resident and committee member, seconded her motion.

But Charley Clark, who is both a committee member and school board member from China, proposed an amendment to change the formula to 70-30 percent. Andrew Cook, both a committee member and school board member from Rome, seconded Clark’s motion.

LaMarre urged the committee maintain the current 75-25 formula.

“In my opinion, it’s a generous move toward making sure it’s a fair result,” she said.

Dennis Keschl, Belgrade’s town manager and a committee member, said RSU 18 is unlike a lot of RSUs because it has a demographic and geography in which property values are much higher than in other communities, and some towns have a high valuation but low student population. LaMarre persisted, saying she felt the current formula is a fair resolution, it had been voted on previously and to do anything less would be to shortchange the district.

The committee opposed the 70-30 proposal in a 8-7 vote and then voted on the 75-25 proposal, approving it 8-7.

Meanwhile, Gary Mahler a committee member and selectman from Belgrade, warned before the final vote that a serious effort is underway in Belgrade to withdraw from RSU 18.

“I think you should think rather strongly about this,” he said.

Oakland has 968 students in the district, Belgrade has 492, Sidney has 665, Rome has 132 and China, 707, according to Gartley.

The meeting, which started at 6 p.m. at the Central Office on Heath Street, was over 40 minutes later.

School board Chairman Jim Isgro, of Sidney, declared the business of the committee was concluded and made a motion to adjourn “sine die,” which he explained means “without day.” He said the committee was done with its work.

The previous Cost Sharing Committee voted in December 2016 to keep the formula as it was. An ad hoc committee typically comes together every five years with three voting members from each of the district’s five towns. However, the RSU 18 school board voted in March to authorize a new review of its cost-sharing formula after Cook <URL destination=”https://www.centralmaine.com/2017/03/02/oakland-based-rsu-18-school-board-votes-to-revisit-cost-sharing-formula-only-two-months-since-previous-committee-voted-to-keep-it-unchanged/”>alleged that the committee’s work wasn’t finished or valid.

</URL>Cook circulated a petition, signed by a number of members, to reconvene the committee, writing 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, which the committee uses to share comments and files.

However, RSU Schools Superintendent Carl Gartley said Thursday that the last meeting ended legally and a majority of committee members attended. Thursday’s committee was a new committee, though most members were also members of the prior committee, according to Gartley.

Isgro, the father of Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the outcome — that the current formula stands.

“I’m pleased that it did not change,” Isgro said. “This is a fair and equitable allocation.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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