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Bill Would Remove Financial Barriers to Consolidation
Allows local cost-sharing agreements and removes disincentives
November 28, 2007
AUGUSTA – A bill proposed by the Maine Department of Education and released today removes unintended financial barriers in the school district reorganization law. The bill addresses three funding issues that have been identified as obstacles to some consolidation efforts.
“My administration has been working with school administrative units to add flexibility to help them achieve the requirements of the law,” said Gov. John Baldacci, who worked with Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron to amend the school funding law. “The intent of the law is to encourage consolidation, not discourage it. In three specific ways, some districts would be penalized for doing the right thing. These changes should remove unintended barriers to consolidation.”
Jim Rier, Director of Finance and Operations for the Department, said Commissioner Gendron has indicated for several months that she would propose the changes and many units have moved forward in their discussions based on that expectation.
“They’ve asked for more tools and flexibility and this gives it to them,” Rier said. “In many regions around the state, communities have been moving forward and doing excellent work to plan for consolidation, even though they knew some of the units would take a financial hit while their neighbors might gain. Now we can tell them ‘you can fix that.’ In other places, where cost shifts have stood in the way of units coming together, they can move forward.”
Nearly every reorganization effort will benefit from the proposed changes. The bill, LD 1932, An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding School Funding, would:
Governor Baldacci said the fixes to the funding law will allow units to move forward and the law to have its intended effect.
“Make no mistake, this is a complicated process with an aggressive timeline,” he said. “People of good faith are making this work, and with these changes to the funding side of the law we can make their jobs a lot easier.”
The bill, sponsored by Education Committee co-chairs Sen. Peter Bowman, D-York County, and Rep. Jacqueline Norton, D-Bangor, is scheduled for a public hearing before their committee on Dec. 12 and a work session the next day. Additional co-sponsors are senators Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Kennebec County, and Karl Turner, R-Cumberland County; and representatives Emily Cain, D-Orono, Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, and Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland. The bill is expected to go before the full House and Senate almost immediately after the Legislature returns to session on Jan. 2.
The full text of the bill, LD 1932, can be found online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280027315
Or by going to http://www.maine.gov/legis and entering “1932” in the box in the upper right corner.
The Department has posted information about developing local cost-sharing agreements, including a template and link to the legislation, on the planning and resources page of its reorganization website: http://www.maine.gov/education/supportingschools/planning.html .
David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6800
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