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West Bath to vote in January on RSU 1 withdrawal

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West Bath to vote in January on RSU 1 withdrawal

WEST BATH — Voters will decide Jan. 21, 2014, whether to pull the town out of Regional School Unit 1.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously set the date Monday evening. Town Administrator Jonathan Davis said a public hearing will be held at the West Bath School at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.

Robert Brown, who started the petition, said in October that the town certified 127 signatures, which exceeded the required 102 (10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election).

If residents approve the referendum, negotiations would start between the town and RSU 1, which also includes Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich. A negotiated withdrawal plan would require approval from the state education commissioner, and would then go back to West Bath voters for a second vote.

Withdrawal will require a simple majority vote. But if it fails, and does not get at least 45 percent of the vote, the town would not be able to petition for withdrawal again for another two years. And after Jan. 1, 2015, withdrawal will require a two-thirds majority vote.

Brown has said local control of costs, school choice and preservation of the town's school are issues that triggered the withdrawal movement.

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. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, claims West Bath should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million over the course of four years, but instead paid $10.1 million. It claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest.

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