School service center referendum on Cape Elizabeth ballot

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters on Nov. 6 will be asked whether they want the Cape Elizabeth School Department to partner with 10 others in a regional school service center.

Also on the ballot will be three seats on the Town Council and three on the School Board.

Other potential members of the Greater Sebago Educational Alliance Regional Service Center include Brunswick, Gorham, Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook, School Administrative District 6 (Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Frye Island, Standish), SAD 15 (Gray, New Gloucester), Regional School Unit 5 (Durham, Freeport, Pownal), and RSU 14 (Raymond, Windham).

Membership will cost each district $1,000 this year. Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said the districts will be assessed a membership fee by Jan. 30 each year.

According to Wolfrom, it was initially the understanding that participating districts would receive an adjustment to their state subsidy of $46 per student this year, which would mean almost $73,000 for Cape Elizabeth at its current enrollment of about 1,600.

However, Wolfrom said she recently learned that amount is run through a formula that was based on a band of 30 to 70 percent of the “total amount based on a percent of state subsidy a district receives.”

Because Cape Elizabeth is a 7 percent receiver, they’ll receive the low 30 percent end of the $46 per pupil, or approximately $22,000 this year, rather than $73,000.

According to its application, the purpose of the alliance is to “enhance student learning and opportunities and maximize available and desired resources through the establishment of shared regional initiatives.”

Participating districts would be offered joint food purchasing; professional development; substitute teacher recruitment, training and hiring, and English Language Learners intake processes. GSEA would serve as an incubator for new regional services and programs.

The alliance would be governed by a board of directors comprised of the superintendent of each district or the superintendent’s designee.

The initial term of the agreement would end June 30, 2020, and would be automatically extended for one additional fiscal year on Feb. 1, 2020, and Feb. 1 of each subsequent fiscal year unless the board votes in favor of dissolving the GSEA.

Nothing in the agreement requires a district to purchase all that’s available through the alliance, but in order to be eligible for state funding, a district must purchase at least two functions, programs or services.

During the School Board’s Aug. 28 meeting, attorney Agnieszka Dixon of Drummond Woodsum said if at any time a district determines the arrangement is not ideal, there’s no penalty for dropping out.

“The obligation is that if you want to receive that state subsidy … then you are obligated to purchase at least two services from any regional service center,” Dixon said.

The School Board approved the proposal, as required by state statute, last week.

“I think this sends a good message that we’re doing our best to be innovative and creative and finding ways and efficiencies to cut costs,” Chairwoman Susana Measelle Hubbs said.

Ballot deadline

Candidates have until 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, to submit the required 25-100 signatures of registered voters to get on the Nov. 6 ballot for town elections.

Town Council seats now held by Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan and Councilors Jamie Garvin and Sara Lennon are up for election. On the School Board, terms are expiring for John Voltz, Heather Altenburg and Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres.

As of Sept. 4, six people had taken out nomination papers for the council seats, including Voltz and Garvin. Lennon and Sullivan were not among the six.

Jeremy Gabrielson, of Rocky Knoll Road, James Tasse, of Cliff Avenue, and Aaron Mosher, of Leighton Farm Road also took out papers.

Scifres and Altenburg both took out papers for another term on the School Board.

Valerie Deveraux, of Shore Road, took out papers for both the council and School Board. As of Sept. 5, only Garvin’s have been verified.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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