2015-05-01 / Letters

Withdrawal virus resurfaces in RSU 21

To the editor:

Six-plus years of outstanding threecommunity cooperation and collaborative effort have resulted in creation of one of the very best public school districts, not only in Maine, but in the whole nation – RSU 21 (see US News & World Report, April 22, 2014). Roughly 2,600 of our youth – our future – are the daily beneficiaries of our tax dollars well spent. About 200 kids begin their schooling in RSU 21 each year as nearly 200 graduate well prepared for the next phase of their lives – whatever that may be.

Now, after two years’ dormancy, the withdrawal virus has crept out of its cave in yet another attempt to destroy this unquestionably outstanding school district. Why? Just ask the viral carriers who attempted to explain their reasons recently in the local press. These so-called reasons given for spreading this virus are as diverse as each town. One town’s small viral population can’t see spending any money regardless of their sinking school building. Another town wants greater representation on the school board (which state law controls), wants to spend more on their local school and also wants costs reapportioned regardless of the state law mandating most of the budget’s apportionment. And finally, one town’s so called withdrawal virus spokesman says he wants to terminate the RSU just because he “doesn’t know if withdrawing from the RSU is good, bad or indifferent.” That is his projected level of understanding after attending virtually every meeting the school district has ever held in the last six years?

In fact, all this withdrawal subterfuge is really just a red herring. Withdrawal is simply a poorly disguised smokescreen to try and turn out more no votes for renovation on June 9.

Here are the renovation facts. The annual cost to each taxpayer, for the RSU 21 renovations to the three buildings, one in each town, based on $100,000 of valuation is: Kennebunk $76.56; Arundel $73.23; Kennebunkport $69.76. Clearly, this is a shared expense between the taxpayers in all three towns. In fact, as you can see, the cost to Kennebunkport residents is less than that of the other towns. It is confounding that a small group of people in our towns just do not understand that public schools are largely funded based on property valuations. If you live in a $200,000 home in one of the three towns you are all paying roughly the same. If you live in a large home, in any of the towns, you will pay more. Welcome to America.

By the same token, petitions are a legitimate means of initiating change. Selectmen must respond appropriately by enabling taxpayers to decide on issues of concern via the voting process. Kennebunkport’s Selectmen conducted a withdrawal study two years ago and concluded then that withdrawal didn’t make economic sense.

After a failed renovation vote last year the School Board has now come back with a $40 million project reduction. Information to date indicates that the cost of operating as an independent district is not likely to present significant savings to Kennebunkport taxpayers. It is possible that the cost of operating independently will be greater than the current educational assessment for RSU 21. It is expensive to go on your own. What has changed?

Withdrawal makes no sense. Three towns going it alone can’t possibly ever achieve either economically, or more importantly, educationally what has been accomplished in RSU 21 by dedicated people working together with common K-12 goals. Fortunately the vast majority of voters in our communities have a much broader and wiser vision of how to succeed by working together. They are way too smart to be duped by these deceitful Trojan Horse tactics.

What can you do? Get Informed. Attend meetings. The next is May 5, Kennebunk High School, 7 p.m., Economos Auditorium. Learn the facts. Then please vote yes June 9 for both school renovation bonding and for the fiscal year 2015-16 operating budget for RSU 21.

Jack Reetz

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