2015-05-01 / Letters

Get involved in school renovation process

To the editor:

Citizens awake. Get involved for our children’s sake. It is time to educate yourselves regarding RSU 21, because your decisions about the bond issue and whether or not to withdraw from RSU 21 shouldn’t depend on the selectmen’s quotations in last week’s article, “Port petitions to pull out of RSU 21.”

Our children’s education deserve more consideration than their reactive, simplistic approach to withdrawal, an approach that ignores the history that resulted in our joining the RSU, and provides no details about how they will manage the complicated, incredibly important responsibility of continuing to provide the excellent level of education that Consolidated children now have.

The one elected governing body that is acting responsibly is the school board. They, the administration and the faculties have improved RSU 21’s quality and reputation. They responded to community sentiment when they reduced the bonding cost by $40 million, including debt service. Consolidated would have benefitted from more funding, but cuts were made for all three schools.

The Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen is another matter. Apparently – since they unanimously voted for withdrawal – they have been discussing this motion for some time.

The smaller bond issue, the cost to Port property owners for funding our share, as well as the date of the bonding vote, all have been public knowledge for some time. Why did they delay until just a few weeks before the vote to approve a motion promoting withdrawal? Why didn’t they schedule informational hearings and educate (no pun intended) us as to the complications that a committee on withdrawal discovered – a committee that they requested about three years ago and whose complete findings can still be Googled? This is not the way to approach a complicated change that is so germane to our kids’ education.

Meanwhile, over in Kennebunk, Ed Karytko continues to complain about two villages wanting to have their own schools. That ship has sailed, Ed. It is a done deal. Besides, have you worked out the numbers? Do you really want Kennebunk homeowners and businesses to absorb most of the 41 to 43 percent the Port contributes to the annual budget? Or to lose the money that the Port will provide to fix our falling down high school?

Back to the Port. Here are a few statements from the selectmen that are quoted in the article: Selectman Hutchins: “ I don’t want anyone to think this is about the money.” Of course it’s about the money, it always has been. But, it’s also about fairness.

It is my personal, emotional opinion that in needing to save our school while in an adversary position with the Kennebunk majority, we were bullied into agreeing to a cost division which, when mandated by state law, was not fair to the Port. But this is history, and if you want change, approach it with foresight and planning.

Selectman Briggs: “People have to understand this is not like throwing a grenade over the palace wall.” No, Patrick, it is not. But it seems apparent that it is an attempt to derail a bond issue that is the result of thoughtful debate and is sorely needed if we are to retain our viability as a community for other than summer residents and old people.

Alan Daggett says he is in favor of withdrawing from RSU, but that is, “his view alone and not that of a selectman.”

Well, Alan, if you feel that strongly – as a private citizen, of course – why didn’t we hear your voice at innumerable facility committee and board meetings? Why “absolutely” sign a petition which would delay the bond issue again, a bond issue that, despite disagreement about how it is funded, everyone agrees is needed to fix our unsafe schools. You may be speaking as a private citizen, but you have been granted the mantle of leadership, so wear it.

My son is a junior at Kennebunk High School; he will be long gone before improvements will have been made. But I will still be here hoping to feel confident that our elected officials will put the welfare of the Port’s children first, ahead of the tax consequences to owners of big houses and desirable properties. Those folks pay a lot because they own a lot. Their cost per $100,000 of value is actually less than it is in Kennebunk.

If the board can figure out how to force Kennebunk to make the arrangement more equitable, I am sure the entire village would cheer them on. But torpedoing this desperately needed bonding by bringing up withdrawal so late in the game without providing us with a detailed plan as to how you will manage to build a new school and be responsible for the incredible educational skills that will be needed without disrupting schooling of our kids. That is not providing capable leadership. That is poor governance.

Lou Miller

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