Bath-area school board OKs new cost-sharing plan

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BATH — The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors unanimously approved a new cost-sharing formula Monday that could go into effect next year.

The change must be approved by a district-wide referendum, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said, and a date for that vote has yet to be set.

A committee tasked with reviewing RSU 1’s cost-sharing formula recommended Nov. 27 that a per-pupil cost-sharing formula be implemented in Regional School Unit 1 starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

The committee initially voted 3-2 to begin the per-pupil formula next year. Bath, Arrowsic and Phippsburg representatives were in favor, with West Bath and Woolwich opposed.

But in a subsequent vote, taken in the hopes of sending a more solid recommendation to the RSU 1 Board of Directors, the Arrowsic and Phippsburg representatives reversed their decisions, joining West Bath and Woolwich. The result was a 4-1 decision in support of starting the per-pupil formula in 2014.

“I think (the School Board) just felt that the cost-per-student (formula) was the most equitable way to go,” and therefore wanted to implement it as soon as possible, Manuel said.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors voted unanimously April 23 to change the cost-sharing formula for the current, fiscal 2013 budget, so that a law that created the school district would apply to its entire local tax calculation.

The local contribution from the five RSU 1 communities – the funds raised through taxes – had been split into two elements: a minimum amount that the state requires, and a portion over and above that amount. State subsidy to the district had been presented on a form based on the essential programs and services model.

The other local contribution piece was the additional amount each community must raise, beyond the EPS model. That contribution stipulated a cost-sharing formula based on equal thirds: student population, state valuation of a community and the community’s population in the most recent census.

The board had heard arguments from the public in support of the change, but its decision drew criticism from some municipal officials.

Meanwhile, West Bath is suing RSU 1 to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the first four years of the school district’s existence.

West Bath’s lawsuit, filed in October in Sagadahoc County Superior Court, claims it should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million in fiscal years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, but instead paid $10.1 million.

The suit claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest. RSU 1’s attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the case, and a hearing to consider the matter is to be held Jan. 8, 2013, Manuel said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.