RSU 1 plans public meetings before referendum

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BATH — Regional School Unit 1 is planning to hold at least two public meetings before a March 19 referendum that would change the district’s cost-sharing formula.

A workshop to have been held at Woolwich Central School Wednesday was cancelled due to weather, but a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, at Bath Middle School. Another meeting is at West Bath District School on Tuesday, March 12. Both start at 6 p.m.

RSU 1 had not determined Wednesday morning whether the Woolwich meeting would be rescheduled.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors unanimously approved a new per-pupil cost-sharing formula last December. It would go into effect next year.

The panel voted unanimously last April to change the cost-sharing formula for the current, fiscal 2013 budget, so that a law that created the school district would apply to its entire local tax calculation.

The local contribution from the five RSU 1 communities – the funds raised through taxes – had been split into two elements: a minimum amount that the state requires, and a portion over and above that amount. State subsidy to the district had been presented on a form based on the essential programs and services model.

The other local contribution piece was the additional amount each community must raise, beyond the EPS model. That contribution 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 heard arguments from the public in support of the change, but its decision drew criticism from some municipal officials.

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.

West Bath’s lawsuit, filed in October in Sagadahoc County Superior Court, claims it should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million in fiscal years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, but instead paid $10.1 million.

The suit claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest. Both RSU 1 and Bath have filed motions to dismiss the case.

Bath was allowed by a judge to join RSU 1 in its defense of the lawsuit. West Bath also recently included Arrowsic and Woolwich as defendants in the case. West Bath claims that Bath, Arrowsic and Woolwich underpaid in the first few years of the RSU’s existence.

The case is scheduled to return to Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath on Tuesday, March 5.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or 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.