FAYETTE — By a few percentage marks each year, the spending plan of Fayette Central School continues to rise — and residents wonder if the town is on a sustainable path by keeping the school open.

During a public hearing Tuesday night, town officials will ask residents if they want a warrant article to OK the hiring of a consultant to evaluate the cost and research the pros and cons of closing the school. The hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If residents at the hearing say yes, the question of hiring a consultant will become an article on the warrant and a validation vote will take place during Town Meeting will take place at 9 a.m. June 15. The ballot election will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11.

The school has about 75 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. As part of choice agreements, Fayette students in sixth grade and older attend schools in Winthrop, Spruce Mountain or in Regional School Unit 38. They can also attend School Administrative District 9 by a special superintendent agreement or Kents Hill School for the state rate.

If the school were to be closed, where would those elementary students learn instead? Would those already enrolled outside of Fayette have to enroll in a new school? Would students be able to continue attending Kents Hill at the state rate? And when would the school close? What would the town do with the facility?

“We don’t know the answers of any of these questions,” Fayette Town Manager Mark Robinson said during a phone interview Thursday. “This is about approving funds to look at the impact of such an action.”

Requests to study the effects of a school closure were made during recent Board of Selectmen and school board meetings, Robinson said. One resident guessed a consultant might charge the town $3,000 to $5,000 for the service.

The study, and decisions made with information received by the town from the study, will have no impact on the 2019-20 school year.

Curiosity about whether closing the school would save taxpayers money was piqued this winter when the Raise the Floor Coalition asked the Legislature to raise the Essential Programs and Service funding floor to 15%.

Minimum receiver municipalities like Fayette get little in subsidies based on the EPS formula. The formula, Robinson explained, makes the town appear more wealthy. The state valuation of the town is $166,150,000, but much of that value comes from lakefront homes.

“The town office is housed in a two-room, 24-foot by 36-foot building that was constructed by the National Guard as a temporary structure in 1983,” wrote Robinson in a testimony to legislators on April 22 following the Ought Not To Pass vote of the Raise the Floor legislation. “And yet, here I sit at the time of this writing.”

In the 2018-19 school year, Fayette received $55,400 from in state subsidies — about 2.7% of its $2,048,916 budget. That meant the remaining money — $1,993,516 — had to be raised by taxpayers.

The bill, L.D. 1170, was turned over to the State Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which turned it down.

“We didn’t want to change the formula,” said Robinson, a member of the coalition who advocated on behalf of the bill. “We just wanted to raise the minimum funding floor.”

Fayette’s current tax rate is $18.05 per $1,000 of assessed land. Taxes on a $150,000 home would cost $2,707.50 before any exemptions.

It’s too early to say yet what Fayette’s 2019-20 taxes might be because spending plans are still being developed.

“The tax burden increase for next year, at the present time, does not appear (as) onerous as what the taxpayers had to deal with this year with the $1.55 (per $1,000 of assessed property value) increase,” Robinson said.

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