SAD 51 budget, Drowne Road School closure, go to June votes in Cumberland, North Yarmouth

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 residents will vote next month on a $28.9 million budget for fiscal 2012 , and decide whether to close Drowne Road School.

The SAD 51 Board of Directors approved the Cumberland-North Yarmouth spending plan and school closure on May 9. The district budget meeting will be held at Greely High School at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 9. The budget validation referendum is Tuesday, June 14.

A public hearing Monday on the school closure drew no comments from the audience. School Board member Bob Vail, who had voted with Bill Dunnett against the closure, was the only person to speak on the matter.

The board voted last year to close the school and use it for other purposes, and to move third grade to the Mabel I. Wilson School. If closed, the school will revert back to the town.

Administrators in SAD 51, where enrollment has been dropping, have said closing Drowne Road School will save more than $244,000 next year. One proposed reuse for the 17,600-square-foot building is as a senior housing/community center as part of the Village Green Revitalization Master Plan.

“I’m not opposed to the reuse of that school for elderly housing; I think that’s a great reuse of it,” Vail said on Tuesday. “My own father would have benefited by that.”

But he said it makes more sense to keep the school because Drowne Road is in better shape and costs less to heat than North Yarmouth Memorial School, which he believes should be closed first.

“In two years, both those schools can be closed,” Vail said. “When you lose (an) average of 50 students a year, in four years that’s 200 kids.”

Drowne Road School was renovated and expanded about 12 years ago. The building was first a school and then housed Town Hall and SAD 51 offices before becoming a school again. SAD 51 leases the building from the town.

Fiscal 2012 budget

Next year’s $28.9 million budget, if approved by voters, will increase by more than $821,000 from the current year. Of that 2.93 percent increase, 1.62 percent is for operations and 1.31 percent reflects debt service from the recent renovation and expansion of Greely High School.

The spending plan follows three years of flat budgets of $28 million.

Cumberland’s tax assessment is due to rise more than $524,000, to $12.3 million. North Yarmouth’s would increase by more than $296,000, to nearly $5 million.

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

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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.