Richmond High School and Middle School, in a photo taken Nov. 20.

RICHMOND — Residents will have the opportunity Monday evening to discuss the possibility of Richmond leaving Regional School Unit 2.

That discussion is planned for a public hearing during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting, set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Office.

If the voters agree March 3 that work on a possible withdrawal should proceed, it will kick off a multistep process expected to take months to complete before a withdrawal could happen.

Voters will have a chance to weigh in again before any withdrawal would occur.

Part of the process is determining the financial impact of withdrawal.

Last year, residents of RSU 2 voted to endorse the district’s $30.5 million budget, which was up $2.7 million from the previous year.

Not all of that money comes from property taxes in the district, which includes Richmond, Monmouth, Dresden, Farmingdale and Hallowell.

Local revenues total about $17 million. Of that, about $15 million comes from property tax assessments, while the balance comes from other sources, such as tuition paid by students who live outside the district to attend RSU 2 schools, rentals and use of surplus funds. The state of Maine education subsidy totaled $13.5 million.

That revenue pays for the expenses of the district, including instruction at $11.4 million; special education at $4.8 million; student and staff support, such as nurses, library and guidance at $2.7 million; operations and maintenance at $3.8 million; transportation at $1.6 million; school administration at nearly $1.6 million; and system administration at $740,000.

Richmond’s share of the local revenue for the district budget was $3.3 million, the second-highest amount paid. Its enrollment as of April 1, 2019 was 453, behind Farmingdale at 454 and Monmouth at 625.

Last year, about 62% of Richmond property tax bills went to the school assessment.

Getting an idea now of how much Richmond property tax payers might expect to pay after withdrawal is hard to determine.

“It would be irresponsible of me to make any definitive statements or figures,” RSU 2 Acting Superintendent Mary Paine said in an email. “What I can say definitively is that the state’s formula for forming an RSU is designed to save taxpayers money.

“Given that fact, it is likely that the taxpayers of any town that decides to withdraw from an RSU will see a tax increase. To avoid one, significant reductions in such major costs as staff and salaries would have to be made.”

Paine was named acting superintendent in January, after Superintendent Cheri Towle announced she was taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. Paine had been the assistant superintendent.

Paine said declined to say what proportion of expenses, for instance salaries and utilities, are paid for the Marcia Buker Elementary School and the Richmond Middle School and High School.

“Current figures or numbers will not neatly translate into what it will cost to run the district in the future,” Paine said in an email.  “There is no way to make that calculation at this early stage of the withdrawal conversation.

“Withdrawal from an RSU is a multiyear project that requires disconnecting all the connected costs that make an RSU an RSU— shared staff, split contracts, debt service agreements, to name a few. Because we operate as an RSU and do not treat individual towns in isolation, we do not have the kind of information you are asking for. It will take considerable time to determine the costs.”

Town Manager Adam Garland said he was not aware that anyone from the school district will attend Monday’s public hearing, and no one has been asked to attend.

The question will appear on the ballot for the March 3 election, along with a proposal to extend the town’s Pipeline Tax Increment Financing District  for an additional 10 years.

A group of residents submitted a petition in November, seeking to take the question of withdrawal to a town-wide vote. Residents will consider approving two questions. The first is whether to start the withdrawal process and the second is to approve a budget to be raised to support legal and other costs of withdrawal. Selectmen set that budget request at $50,000.

Residents can vote March 3 at the Public Works garage, or they can vote by absentee ballot, now available at the Town Office at 26 Gardiner St.


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