Freeport School Committee waives tuition agreement for Pownal

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FREEPORT — The School Committee unanimously approved a one-time amendment to the Pownal tuition agreement Monday night.

The move returns $44,000 to School Administrative District 62 to help relieve an unusual tax increase for Pownal in fiscal year 2010.

Due to a spike in state valuation, a reduction of carry forward funds and terms of the Regional School Unit 5 consolidation, Pownal taxpayers would have faced a 36 percent increase in taxes next year. The RSU, state Education Commissioner Susan Gendron and state legislators have tried to find ways to reduce the burden. Legislators are trying to pass a one-time adjustment to allow Pownal taxpayers to pay a lower valuation; Gendron tried to offer a $190,000 grant to SAD 62 to help offset taxes, but was denied the funds by the Legislature’s Education Committee.  

School Committee Chairman Chris Leighton said giving the $44,000 to Pownal “felt like the right thing to do.”

In 2000, Leighton said, Pownal and Freeport agreed that Pownal would pay the state-required tuition to send its students to Freeport High School, and would also pay an additional amount per pupil as a “capital support premium” to help pay for capital costs associated with the high school. In 2003, the agreement was altered so that Pownal would pay a portion of the high school debt from construction of the building’s science wing and Performing Arts Center.

In the past, the premium from Pownal would have gone into Freeport’s school reserve fund, which is controlled by the Town Council.

Committee member Susan Martling said it is unfair to charge Pownal a premium and not charge the other RSU partner, Durham.

“Fairness is a big issue,” Martling said. “It is our responsibility to do what we can to get the (RSU5) budget passed and move forward to educate our children. This is a means to an end.”

As of the last RSU meeting on May 27, the $23.5 million budget would mean Pownal residents would pay $654 on $100,000 of assessed property value. With a legislative change in valuation for Pownal residents, the tax impact would be reduced to $543 for every $100,000 of assessed value. And, with the state valuation reduction and the premium waiver from the Freeport School Committee, Pownal taxpayers would pay $482 on $100,000 of assessed value. Pownal would go from a 36 percent increase to a 26.5 percent increase with the help of the state and the Freeport School Committee.

The RSU board was scheduled to meet Wednesday, June 3, to adopt the fiscal 2010 budget and will hold an annual budget meeting for residents at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16. On June 25, there will be a budget validation referendum in each town to approve or reject the budget.

To view the budget, visit the RSU Web site.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or