SAD 44 approves new cost-sharing formula

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BETHEL — SAD 44 voted Tuesday 1,522 to 1,117 in favor of a proposed change to the district’s cost-sharing formula.

All four towns voted in favor, with Bethel 738-623, Greenwood 258-133, Newry 185-65 and Woodstock 341-296.

This year’s proposal carried a major change from another one that was defeated last year: For the approved formula to go into effect, Newry will have to vote to end its current withdrawal process at their town meeting in March.

Newry Selectman Jim Largess was happy to see a new process approved by the district.

“Newry felt like it wasn’t being treated fairly, we just wanted to be treated like everyone else,” Largess said. “I think it’s a great compromise, I think it’s fair. I’m very happy to have our school dollars figured the same as everyone else in the state. It’s time to move forward and focus on education.”

Others felt differently about approved formula change.

“I have always voted no to a change in the funding formula feeling that the original agreement made in the sixties has never changed,” Vice-Chairman Pro-Tempore of the School Board Lainey Cross said. “It’s now up to the voters in Newry to end the withdrawal process.”

Some officials and residents of School Administrative District 44 have hoped that the formula change, which is more favorable to Newry, will encourage those residents to remain in the district, rather than continue their school withdrawal process.

Two previous proposals to change the formula were defeated by district voters, the most recent one by a narrow margin in November 2017.

Assessments to the SAD 44 towns are currently based 100 percent on valuation, leaving Newry with the highest share, at about $3 million of the roughly $8.4 million total. The town is home to Sunday River Resort.

The formula change’s impact would be phased in over a nine-year period, with the final version of the formula remaining in place thereafter.

Negotiations between Newry and SAD 44 to come up with a withdrawal agreement for Newry residents to vote on are stalemated. Such an agreement is required for withdrawal to proceed.

If Newry was able to withdraw from SAD 44 there would likely be a $2 million tax shift from Newry to Bethel and Woodstock, according to district officials.

swheeler@bethelcitizen.com

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