BELGRADE — Voters rejected 692 to 400 a proposal that would start a process to have the town withdraw from Regional School Unit 18, the Messalonskee and China school district.

A petition to start the withdrawal process put the issue on the Tuesday’s ballot after some property owners objected to rising school costs and a funding formula based 75 percent on land value and 25 percent on student population.

The group behind the petition effort formed in response to a meeting at which the district’s superintendent talked about consolidating Belgrade and Sidney schools and a reduction of cafeteria and maintenance workers, according to Ernie Rice, one of the group’s members.

While signs posted around the town say, “Vote Yes on 1. Save Belgrade Central School,” the superintendent said there is no proposal to close the Belgrade school.

The town hosted a public session Oct. 30 on the ballot issue, where proponents of leaving the district presented their arguments and those who want the town to remain in the district gave their reasons.

“I am a huge advocate of local control,” Superintendent Carl Gartley said at that meeting. “I definitely want to keep a school in each town. However, this is a decision for Belgrade. I personally hope (the withdraw move) does not go forward.”


Becky Seel, one of Belgrade’s representatives on the RSU 18 Board of Directors, said school consolidation had been an option suggested by a facilities committee charged with investigating problems of district buildings. Another option had been to combine all the elementary schools at one location, she said.

“There was never any board vote on closing Belgrade Central School,” she said.

A ballot question to pay for improvements at the Old Town House on Cemetery Road, which would be paid by the historical society, was also approved. Totals were not available for that ballot question by deadline.

A $13.9 million facilities renovation and improvement bond issue also appeared on Tuesday’s ballot and passed 648-443. The referendum included almost $800,000 for work at Belgrade Central School.

The process of withdrawing from a regional school district is regulated by state law, and it requires a second vote later in the process.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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