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Voters OK new RSU 1 cost-sharing formula

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Voters OK new RSU 1 cost-sharing formula

BATH — A new cost-sharing formula that will assess the five member communities of Regional School Unit 1 on a per-pupil basis passed, 580-138, in a district referendum Tuesday, according to unofficial numbers.

Bath approved the change, 190-6. Arrowsic voted 82-1 for the formula, and Phippsburg, OK'd it 270-2. The new formula was defeated in West Bath, 68-17, and Woolwich, 61-21.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors unanimously adopted the new plan last December for implementation in the 2014 fiscal year budget cycle.

Local contributions from the RSU 1 communities are raised through taxes. Prior to the current fiscal year, the contributions had been split into two portions: a minimum amount the state requires, and an additional portion. State subsidy to the district had been based on the "essential programs and services" model.

The other local contribution – the additional amount each community must raise, beyond the EPS model – 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 opted last year to apply the thirds formula to its entire local tax calculation. While some members of the public had supported the change, the decision drew criticism from some municipal officials, prompting a committee to seek a cost-sharing plan that would be equitable to RSU 1 communities.

The committee recommended a per-pupil formula.

RSU 1's total fiscal 2013 budget is $26 million; $17.3 million is assessed to the five communities – $8.6 million to Bath, nearly $500,000 to Arrowsic, nearly $3 million to Phippsburg, $2.2 million to West Bath and $3.1 million to Woolwich.

The cost per pupil for each community varies. In Bath it is more than $7,200, while in Arrowsic the cost is more than $12,300, and in Phippsburg it's more than $12,500. West Bath's cost is more than $9,300, and in Woolwich the cost is more than $7,900.

In calculating what the cost-per-pupil assessment would have been for this fiscal year, miscellaneous revenues and debt service payments received by the state were subtracted from the $26 million budget, to reduce that amount to $23.4 million. That number was divided by the total number of RSU 1 students (2,092) to get an average cost per student of $11,189.

While subsidies and special education reimbursements are currently spread between all five communities, the new formula will direct those funds to the actual communities generating the revenues.

The Maine Department of Education determines a community's ability to fund education for its students, based on the state's valuation of that community and a state-set mil rate for education. If a community, such as Bath, has more students than the state has determined it can pay, the state will fund the difference through a subsidy.

Bath and Woolwich receive subsidies, while Arrowsic and Phippsburg receive a special education reimbursement. West Bath receives neither.

The subsidies for fiscal 2013 totalled $6.1 million, reducing the $23.4 million budget to $17.3 million. When that amount is divided by the number of students in each community, the costs per pupil are about $7,000 for Bath, $10,700 for Arrowsic, $10,700 for Phippsburg, more than $11,100 for West Bath and nearly $8,600 for Woolwich.

This calculation shows the cost per pupil for fiscal 2013, had the formula been applied for this current budget. The costs per pupil for Bath, Arrowsic and Phippsburg are lower per student with the new formula, while the expenses for West Bath and Woolwich – the two communities that voted against the change – are larger.

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