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School Consolidation

Our little town of Pownal has been badly bitten by Maine's school consolidation initiative, which has the noble goal of reducing the cost of education through economies of scale.  However, due to bad information, the cost allocation formula that was negotiated and approved by the towns relied on bad information.  As a consequence our town is looking at a huge tax increase with no change in the education our children receive.

Here is a letter I wrote to our governor asking for more time to renegotiate:

Dear Governor Baldacci,

 I am writing to request that you intervene in the school consolidation process to allow the new school units more time to create equitable formulas for the allocation of costs among member towns. 

When residents of my town approved restructuring we had no idea that we were accepting something in the neighborhood of $1000 per household tax increase as a result.  The numbers we had available at the time gave no hint of this, primarily as I understand it, because we did not have current school year budget numbers available.  I am certain that if the citizens here had known the true consequences of their vote our merger with Freeport and Durham would not have been approved.

While I believe the town accepted that consolidation might mean our cost per student would rise with no immediate improvement (or change) in the education our children received, we expected that the increase, if any, would be small.  We consoled ourselves with the hope that there would be some offsetting savings to the state that might eventually be returned to the town. 

Now, however, we in Pownal are faced with an overwhelming tax increase and that in an extremely difficult economy.  I own a small business which employs 6 people.  My revenues are down by 40% this year.  My bank has refused to increase my line of credit.  I am currently paying a good portion of my payroll out of my own pocket.  I can’t keep this up indefinitely.  Doubling my property taxes will not help.

I believe the other towns in our consolidated district understand the inequity of our present cost allocation formula and would be happy to work toward a more equitable distribution if only the state will allow them to do so.  

Governor, we need your intervention to allow us the time to make consolidation work for all of us.

Sincerely,

May 5, 2009 in Local Politics | Permalink

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