FAIRFIELD — The board of directors for Maine School Administrative District 49 met this week to review the funding plan for a new elementary school proposed for Benton.

Bill Stockmeyer, an attorney for the Portland-based law firm Drummond Woodsum, gave a presentation to the board on how state funding for new school construction works. MSAD 49, which serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield, is working toward construction of a consolidated school.

Stockmeyer told the board Thursday that the state Department of Education generally pays 94% to 100% of the cost for any school construction project. And what exactly the state pays for depends on each individual project, as it will pay for some amenities in a school but not others.

For example, the DOE will only pay for a gym of a certain size at an elementary school. If the district wanted a bigger gym, it would pay the extra cost for that roomier gym. The cost to be paid by taxpayers in the district can be lowered through fundraising, Stockmeyer said.

The district is not at the point where it has an estimate on the cost of construction, Stockmeyer said. The district is working on getting final approval from the state on the proposed site, on Neck Road on land adjacent to Benton Elementary School.

Stockmeyer talked through a hypothetical project with the board, to give it an idea of what the tax impact could look like for the district.


In his example, the state agrees to pay $40 million for the project, and the district pays an additional $1 million. That means the state is paying roughly 97% and the district is responsible for just under 3% of the cost. The district then gets long-term bonds for the entire $41 million, but the state still covers 97% of the payments by increasing the district’s state subsidy to match that cost.

So in the first year of paying the bond, the bill to the district is $3.3 million, an amount that will decrease each subsequent year. The state portion of that is roughly $3.25 million.

The remaining amount for that first-year bill is around $81,000 and that is the amount the district is responsible for. When breaking that down among the four towns, Albion’s portion is roughly $12,000, Benton’s is around $18,000, Clinton’s is about $13,000 and Fairfield’s is approximately $33,000.

After Stockmeyer’s presentation there was time for questions and board member Beth Lambert, one of Fairfield’s representatives, asked what happens if one town in the district decides to withdraw in the middle of the construction project — an apparent reference to Albion where residents are considering leaving the district. Albion’s elementary school would close with the opening of the consolidated school in Benton.

Stockmeyer said in his experience a town that withdraws still has to pay its portion of the bonds for the construction project. Organizers behind the effort to have Albion depart have argued that if the withdrawal process starts before the project referendum, Albion will not have to pay for the new school. Any final decisions on the matter would happen during negotiations over a town’s withdrawal. Albion residents will vote on starting the withdrawal process June 10.

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