2012-11-16 / Community

Arundel votes to stay with RSU 21

By Tracy Orzel
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL – After three years of discussions and a margin of 125 votes, Arundel residents voted Nov. 6 to remain in Reginal School Unit 21. The vote was 1,169 in favor of staying in the school district and 1,044 against the proposal.

To some, the vote came as a disappointment.

Jon Renell was one of those people.

Renell, who was on the Town of Arundel Withdrawal Committee and helped collect signatures for the petition, said it would be at least two years until residents can petition to leave RSU 21 again.

Although Renell has no intention of being a part of that, he said if asked, he would add his signature.

Others, such as Superintendent Andrew Dolloff, were pleased with the results. In a press release the day after the election, Dolloff said he was happy with the voters’ decision to stay in RSU 21 and added the true beneficiaries of the vote are the students.

Addressing the contentious nature of the issue, Velma Jones Hayes, chairman of the Arundel Board of Selectmen, said Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport worked together before the vote and will continue working together.

“I don’t think that that’s going to change,” she said.

Arundel Town Manager Todd Shea said the next step is to get Arundel residents involved with RSU 21 and move forward.

Shea said there is a section in the state statute regarding withdrawal that has some inconsistencies about when a petition to leave the RSU can be circulated again.

“We may call the attorneys in the Department of Education to make sure that we’re not misreading it, but the way it would appear now, they would not be able to submit a petition for two years,” said Shea.

As for what the vote means to taxpayers, Shea said it’s too early to tell.

“All of those figures really hinge upon the bond issues that are going to be put forth before the voters,” Shea said.

They also hinge on the RSU 21 Cost Sharing Committee.

The committee is made up of nine representatives from Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel, three from each town. The committee’s job is to propose a formula regarding how district costs will be shared and the proposed formula must be approved by voters in the district by a two–thirds majority to pass.

The formula will impact local costs, that is to say, anything that is not covered by the essential programs and services (EPS) portion of the budget, which is required by the state. The formula also applies to new debt, like construction.

At present, the local cost formula is based on 60 percent property value and 40 percent pupil count. If the new proposal is passed, the new share would be based on 90 percent property value and 10 percent pupil count.

As for new debt, the present formula is also based on 60 percent property value and 40 percent pupil count; however, the proposed formula will be based 100 percent on property value.

According to Dolloff, the new proposal would shift responsibility to Kennebunkport and away from Kennebunk and Arundel because Kennebunkport has higher property values.

Dolloff acknowledged there will be people in Kennebunkport who oppose the new formula.

“It is a shift in their direction in terms of responsibility for the school bill,” said Dolloff.

For example, if a building project costs $50 million and the new formula is approved, taxpayers in the three towns will see difference between $30 to $80 in taxes per $100,000 house.

Dolloff illustrated how the new costsharing formula would affect taxes.

“In Kennebunk, rather than paying $165 per $100,000, they might only pay $147 per $100,000. In Kennebunkport, instead of paying $104, they might pay $140. For Arundel, instead of paying $230, the might only have to pay $150. So it bounces around.“

Dolloff said the RSU 21 board will determine when voters see the proposal on the ballot over the course of the next few meetings, but anticipates the vote to be sometime in May.

Renell believes that if the proposed costsharing plan is passed, it will save Arundel a lot of money.

“Arundel needs to pass that cost sharing. If we don’t were going to be in big trouble with the renovation plan,” said Renell.

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