HARPSWELL — State Education Commissioner Angela Faherty has told selectmen that the cost to keep West Harpswell School open will be reduced to about $191,000.
Selectmen sought a reduction from the original School Administrative District 75 estimate of nearly $196,000, based on a discrepancy in the cost of teacher salaries, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said previously.
The school district argued “the benefits are calculated correctly” and responded to the overstatement by saying there was an understatement the previous year and an equal overstatement in the current base year.
But Faherty confirmed the overstatement in a Nov. 17 letter.
A previous amendment of more than $4,000 for fuel charged to West Harpswell School, but delivered to Bowdoinham Community School, had already been approved by both SAD 75 and Faherty.
A referendum vote on the proposed closing of West Harpswell School, and whether the town will have to repay SAD 75 if the school remains open, is scheduled in Harpswell on Feb. 1, 2011.
Faherty in the five-page letter also responded to other points made by the Harpswell School Closure Cost Review Team, as well as questions from selectmen and the public.
But she did not respond to questions about overstated charges from last year, saying comment is only allowed regarding the current year. Several questions about one-time expenses, actual expenditures during the base year and additional costs of phone service, trash removal and administrative supplies were answered with the same response:
“Pursuant to statute, expenses to keep the school open must be actual expenditures. All expenses incurred during the base year will be considered in the cost savings calculation – the only exception per rule is additional costs for transportation may be included.”
Faherty did not respond favorably to increasing the time-line for municipal review of cost savings estimates, citing a 20-day time frame imposed on the Department of Education. The review team had argued the 10-day review period was a challenge and should be lengthened.
The response letter from Faherty is posted online at www.harpswell.maine.gov with the rest of the documents related to West Harpswell School closure.
Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.