Monday, March 16, 2015

School Board crunches the numbers to reconfigure the Cost Sharing Formula - By Michelle Libby

After months of working through the data and many meetings, the RSU14 School Board has begun having public hearings and laying out the plan for adjusting the Cost Sharing Formula between Raymond and Windham. 
When the communities consolidated in 2009, it was determined that the cost sharing would be based on the prior three-year average of the additional local-only funding. The percentages were 55 percent for Windham and 45 percent for Raymond. The Windham High School debt would be based on a two-year enrollment of Raymond students.

In the fall a subcommittee was created called the cost sharing committee with two Raymond members and two Windham members. The numbers were compared to numbers that were estimated out based on how much the two towns would have paid for educating the youth in that community if the RSU had not been created.

The new proposal is based on the State valuation of each town. Windham’s valuation is $1,772,075,000. Raymond’s is $1,003,150,000. When figured out the percentages were 64 percent and 36 percent. Windham having the larger percentage because it is larger. It is that 64 percent and 36 percent split that also was figured by averaging the number of students in each community. 

The new cost sharing method will be phased in over three years with Windham’s cost per $250,000 home ending up in 2018 at $51 total. Raymond’s portion based on the same $250,000 home would decrease $90. The amount that Windham and Raymond are splitting with this formula applies only to the money that exceeds the amount the State of Maine pays through Essential Programs and Services (EPS) and Windham-Raymond Adult Education. 

Debt service, on new construction that does not change the footprint of a building, would then be paid for with the 64/36 formula, for example if a boiler went at Jordan-Small Middle School, the RSU would fix it. If the new construction changes the footprint of a building the town the construction is in would take on the debt for that building. Any debt that was acquired before the consolidation would stay with that town, except for the Windham High School construction. Raymond agreed to pay according to a percentage of students anticipated would attend WHS. With the new plan, if a student from Raymond attends Windham Middle School and a new school is built, Raymond would pay 1/635 of the cost.    

“The high school was built for 1,300 students instead of the 1,100 students that Windham had,” said Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis. 

Public hearings have been held in Windham and Raymond with another planned for March 18 before the final vote on March 25. 

In Raymond, Joe Brown of Raymond addressed the school board. “I appreciate you going and reconfiguring. Still in the next three years Raymond is paying more than they should,” he said. He finished with “Congratulations on coming back with something workable.” 

Robert Faye of Raymond supports the new cost sharing proposal. “I encourage the Town of Raymond to suspend the disbanding of the RSU,” he said. 

The final vote for the cost sharing formula will be on March 25 at Windham High School Performing Arts Center. The vote will be a show of hands vote. The vote will be at 6 p.m., but there will be a review of the plan starting at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday night, Superintendent Sandy Prince and Davis spoke to the Windham Town Council to explain the formula. In 2019, the school board will look back to the state valuation, take a three year average and then could create the formula for the official cost sharing numbers. 

Councilman Robert Muir was concerned about the turn out for the public hearing and the lack of polling time on March 25. “I want to have open polls at more times,” he said. 

School board chair Marge Govoni said “We would have hoped for more [people]. When people are content they tend to stay home.”  She added that by statute the vote on the plan had to be around March 25 to get it in this year’s budget. She wanted to stress how much work and support has gone into this plan. “I don’t think we could have communicated it any better. I’m very grateful for the amount of feedback from the public.”

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