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Education Committee Votes to Remove Financial Barriers
LD 1932 now moves to the full House and Senate
December 13, 2007
AUGUSTA – In a 10-2 vote on Thursday, the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted in favor of a Department of Education bill that removes financial barriers to school districts attempting to consolidate under the school administrative reorganization law.
The bill, LD 1932, will now go before the full House and Senate for a vote in early January. It would help school districts to account for cost-shifting that occurs in some cases by allowing communities to develop their own local cost-sharing agreements. The bill also would allow some school units that currently receive a minimum subsidy to retain that subsidy, even if they join with another unit. And, lastly, the bill would remove a requirement that all school units in the state must raise a minimum $2 per $1,000 of valuation for education, a provision of the law that affects about two dozen communities with high property valuations and, generally, lower numbers of students.
“We know that these financial issues have been a barrier to units trying to comply with the law and reorganize,” Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron said Thursday. “These changes will make it possible for regional planning committees to move forward in completing reorganization plans.”
The committee made two amendments to the Department’s proposed bill. The first would postpone the budget validation process until the 2009-10 school year budget. The budget validation process creates a uniform process for developing and approving budgets statewide to help citizens understand what they are voting on, and to ensure that all voters have the chance to weigh in on the budget. The validation process begins with a school board vote, is followed by a vote of the local legislative body – typically a city council, a district budget meeting or town meeting – and then by a referendum vote. In addition, the budget is presented showing 11 cost centers, along with the proposed budget for each center and the Essential Programs and Services benchmark for each cost center.
The other amendment clarifies the language around cost-sharing agreements to make clear that the agreement must be part of the reorganization plan that voters vote on at the polls.
“I want to thank the Education Committee for expediting the hearing and workshop session to address these barriers,” Gendron said. “I am hopeful the full Legislature will move quickly in January to remove these obstacles so that communities can complete their plans successfully.”
David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6880
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