Mark Bower went over the Richmond Withdrawal Contract with the community Thursday night over Zoom. Screenshot via Zoom

RICHMOND — Richmond Selectman O’Neil LaPlante wanted to emphasize the town’s withdrawal from Regional School Unit 2 wasn’t due to financial reasons, but rather a relationship with the district that “never came to fruition.”

RSU 2 hosted a public hearing over Zoom Thursday night to discuss the withdrawal process with the town of Richmond.

The meeting, run by RSU 2 board of directors Chairperson Jon Hamann, served as a place where residents and members of the school community could ask any questions they might have had related to the withdrawal process and review the contract agreement between the town and the school district.

“There is some misconception that there was a huge rift between RSU 2 and Richmond. This is not a money issue, there are other issues this involves,” LaPlante said. “The only way I can describe it is we have a situation where there is a relationship that never came to fruition. It seems like a mismatch. The towns never really worked with the school district in the way they needed to to be successful.”

He emphasized Richmond’s intention to withdraw was not related to money.

In fact, one Zoom participant, Hallowell Mayor George LePointe, asked if Richmond would be saving any money through the withdrawal from the district that serves Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Richmond. Together, each town pays a percentage of the tax collected budget for the school district.

Richmond paid 21.26% of the current school year budget for RSU 2, about $3.5 million. As part of the withdrawal process the Richmond Withdrawal Committee had to come up with a potential budget for what the town’s first year as a separate district could look like. The committee estimated it would be around $400,000 more than what Richmond currently pays to be in RSU 2.

Richmond Schools included in the agreement are Marcia Buker Elementary School, and Richmond Middle and High School. Mark Bower, the lawyer for RSU 2, said if the town decides to withdraw, students have the ability to stay in the school they started in up to the highest grade of that school.

“The withdrawal process is a multi-step process,” he told the Zoom participants. “The last is a vote by the town that is withdrawing from the RSU and the Richmond meeting is June 8. Before that, there are two public hearings. Maine law requires to have that before it happens.”

Thursday’s meeting was one of those two public hearings.

Bower read the withdrawal agreement to the 65 people taking part in the Zoom meeting.

The process for Richmond to obtain an agreed-upon contract has been lengthy. November was the first time in six months the town was able to hear back from the RSU regarding the contract the town sent over for officials to review. By January, the town and the district finalized the agreement and was able to send it to the Department of Education for review.

Hamann said the RSU 2 budget would “remain stable,” even if Richmond voted to withdraw.

“The direct cost to Richmond will go to Richmond, the umbrella cost,” he said, adding they did not go into detail about next year’s RSU 2 budget if Richmond withdraws.

Community member Brian York asked about efforts the school district has made in order to retain Richmond.

“At this point, it’s up to the residents of Richmond,” Hamann said. “The RSU is not making a decision either way, and we will work with the outcome.”

The town of Richmond does not have a set date for the next meeting, but the selectmen said they will update the town website once they know.

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