Population change could alter makeup of Cumberland-North Yarmouth School Board

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

CUMBERLAND — Population change is prompting the eight-member School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors to consider adding another Cumberland representative.

The Cumberland-North Yarmouth board voted 7-0 Monday, with member Robert Vail abstaining, to ask the Maine commissioner of education to determine if the board is apportioned according to the principle of one person, one vote.

The Town Council voted unanimously Dec. 10, 2012, to request the board’s action “to determine the necessity for reapportionment based upon the 2010 census.”

State Rep. Stephen Moriarty, at the time chairman of the Cumberland Town Council, explained to Superintendent of Schools Robert Hasson in a letter last December that Cumberland’s population in the 2010 census was 7,211, nearly 67 percent of the district’s total population; North Yarmouth’s population was 3,565.

The School Board now has five members from Cumberland and three from North Yarmouth. Adding a sixth Cumberland representative would increase the town’s representation to nearly 67 percent, matching its share of the SAD 51 community population.

According to a document on the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System website, Cumberland’s population increased 6 percent from 2000, while North Yarmouth’s grew 11 percent.

The board’s request to the education commissioner “is step one of many steps” in the process, Hasson said.

If the commissioner find the board’s representation is not correct, he would call for formation of a reapportionment committee. That committee would have members from both communities, the Cumberland Town Council, North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen, and a representative from each community on the School Board, according to Jeff Porter, co-chairman of the board.

The committee’s reapportionment plan would have to be approved by the education commissioner.

Cumberland representative Vail, who cast the dissenting vote Monday, said it is difficult to get people to run for the School Board, so “there’s no sense in adding an additional member.”

Porter said he doubted it would be as challenging this year to find candidates for the board.

Board member Jim Bailinson said that in his six years on the panel, “I can’t think of a single vote that has broken down on town lines. … I think (when) you come on the board, whether you come from Cumberland or North Yarmouth, you are representing the district. You’re trying to do what’s right for the students and the taxpayers of the district as a whole.”

Depending on how quickly the process goes, there is a chance that a vote to add new member could be part of the June election, Hasson said.

Budget cuts

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, a list of cuts that could potentially be made in the fiscal 2014 budget was discussed.

The Finance Committee had asked Hasson and Finance Director Scott Poulin to develop the list to show ways next year’s spending plan increase could be reduced from a projected 2.95 percent – maintaining staff and programs at their current levels – to 1 percent.

Although Hasson’s proposed budget will not be ready until next month, one suggested reduction at Greely High School – elimination of industrial technology teacher Kelvin Hasch and that program – drew opposition from many people at the meeting.

Among the speakers was Margo Harrington of Cumberland, who pointed out that between 135 and 150 students are involved in the Industrial Arts program.

That item was among several that could reduce next year’s budget by nearly $600,000 and reduce the spending plan increase to 1 percent. Hasch’s position, which includes salary, benefits and supplies, costs about $81,500.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. 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.