RSU 1 weighs per-pupil cost-sharing formula

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BATH — A committee reviewing the effectiveness of the Regional School Unit 1 formula for sharing costs across its communities is considering a per-student assessment model, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said Wednesday.

Representatives from all five communities have been meeting since June, and may decide at a Tuesday, Nov. 13, meeting whether to recommend that assessment – which would be the same for each community – to the RSU 1 Board of Directors.

The review was triggered by concerns over the RSU 1 board’s unanimous vote April 23 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 board heard arguments from the public in support of the change, but its decision drew criticism from some municipal officials in the district, which is comprised of Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich.

In May, the Bath City Council asked RSU 1 Chairman Timothy Harkins to request that the School Board “immediately begin the process of adopting a new cost-sharing method that is fair and equitable to the taxpayers of all member communities.”

The local contribution from the RSU 1 communities – the funds raised through taxes – had been split into two pieces: 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.

Harkins said in April that the form stated that for the district to receive subsidy from the state, “we need to raise a certain dollar amount at the local level. And they break that down by community. They say each community should raise X amount of dollars.”

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.

Manuel said this week that the cost-sharing committee supports using the recently discussed per-pupil formula for the state-required minimum contribution, but that it had not reached consensus on applying that model to the local over-and-above portion.

Each community is expected to discuss the proposed formula before the committee reconvenes Nov. 13. The committee could make a recommendation on the matter to the School Board at that panel’s Nov. 26 meeting.

If the School Board supports a change in the formula, the decision would go to a district-wide referendum vote.

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.