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Burr's Comments

I will use this space to make comments and observations relating to the withdrawal from MSAD 75. Please understand that I hope they will be fair in the sense of honest and truthful, and will post any responsible opinion, it is not within my goals to be balanced.

Since I have so many comments I am setting up my own page for them.

6/14/06

The following is the text of a letter I sent to the editor of the Times Record:

  • Editor,

    In your article from the Tuesday, June 14th front page titled "Residents weigh in on Harpswell exit plan" your reporter said that I made a sarcastic remark. I regret that the remark came across in that way. I was trying, in a humorous way to look at the tax issue in another analogous way. I own shorefront property which has been in the family for more than 50 years.

    Not surprisingly my taxes have gone up, even though I am on a fixed income.

    Many of the reasons for the increase could be considered "unfair" and "unreasonable." They have gone up because my neighbors paid a lot of money for their property, because of policy decisions by the selectmen, because of re-evaluation, because the state relies too heavily on property tax and probably several other reasons. While the analogy is not perfect, it is comparable, in my opinion to the situation Harpswell finds itself in with SAD 75.

    But says the committee, Harpswell has (or had) the lowest median income per household of any of the four towns, and cannot afford to pay its mandated share of SAD 75 budget. Unfortunately, lowest median income is irrelevant to Harpswell, because 40% of our wealthiest taxpayers do not live in Harpswell and are not included in the statistic "median household income."

    Indeed, the committee complains that Harpswell spends over $12,000 (I think) per student. However, it would be clearer if we said Harpswell taxpayers spend that much. Harpswell residents only spend 60% (or so) of that or $7200 per student. If you compare median taxes paid per household, I understand that figure is fairly comparable throughout SAD 75.

1/16/06

In my opinion:

  • The vote on January 28 is supposedly a response to a petition to the Selectmen for Harpswell to withdraw from SAD 75. The vote, however, could be held anytime. The statute does not say when it must be held. The 60 day limit for petitions does not appear to apply. Superintendent Wilhelm concurs with this view.

  • The vote is on whether the people of Harpswell want to separate from SAD 75, but the vote is not needed to start the process of withdrawal. That process can, and I think, should be started with a special committee which could study the issues of the costs and benefits of withdrawal. That (special) committee could also come up with a plan that would become the basis for the (negotiating) committee to negotiate with the SAD 75 school Board. (see below)

  • If the vote on Jan 28th favors withdrawal, the Selectmen will appoint a committee. The committee then has only 90 days to come up with a proposal to fulfill the requirements required by the state, and to negotiate with the SAD 75 School Board to come up with an agreement. The agreement is then sent to the Commissioner of Education for approval. She may approve or disapprove, but after her final approval the Selectmen schedule a final vote to see if Harpswell should separate.

  • Therefore, Harpswell legally has all the time in the world to decide if they want to withdraw, but very little time to come up with a plan and implement it. Unfortunately, the "if want to" vote is less than 2 weeks away. [If we have a "special committee" the negotiating committee will already have a plan to work with. This will put us in a better bargaining position]

  • It is unclear how the people of Harpswell will have input into the plan that is negotiated with the SAD 75 board. It must be developed by the committee and negotiated in a short time. I saw no mechanism for input. [If we have a "special committee" we will be able to have a plan that includes input from Harpswell citizens.]

  • The mission of this committee is to come up with a plan, etc.. It is NOT its mission to explore or study or answer questions about the costs and benefits of withdrawal. Therefore, I am concerned we will be presented with a school plan in 6 months or so in which the citizens of Harpswell have had little or no input and our only choice will be to vote it up or down - not amend it. [If we have a "special committee" we will be able to get answers to these questions and have input prior to the first vote.]

  • Finally, I am concerned that the vote on Jan 28 with start the clock ticking on a process that we are not yet prepared for

In conclusion I feel we need another hearing in order to clarify these and other questions. If you agree, please so inform the Selectmen.

1/12/06- 8:00 pm

We're in too much of a hurry for a good debate.

I am concerned that we are being rushed to a decision about withdrawal. I think I can remember Selectman Theberge talking about the schools within a month of his taking office as a Selectman (2 1/2 years ago). Certainly, the issue has been "out there" for several months with articles in the Times Record and comments by Selectman Weil. Then, with no prior notice to anyone I know of, Selectman Theberge announces he will start a petition to withdraw from MSAD 75. On December 8, the petition was presented at a Special Selectman's meeting just for that purpose, whereupon the Selectman set the time for a special election for January 28 and a hearing for January 10. I believe there could have been plenty of time to research these issues.

I did not know what the rush was so I called various people and read statutes. I found nothing in the statutes relating to withdrawal requiring a certain time period to respond. Some people have suggested that the normal period to respond to a petition is putting it on a warrant or having a town meeting in within 60 days. (See normal statute.) It does not make sense to me that it would apply to withdrawing from a school district. Sixty days is not very much time for the public to adequately consider so momentous a decision as withdrawing from a school district. Furthermore, the withdrawal statute says specifically that it must be a secret ballot at a special election with a hearing. This is quite different from the "normal statute."

I called the Town office today and asked Kristi about the applicability of the normal petition statute. She sent me the response from Selectman Weil (which you can read here). He appears to think that the statute does apply, but seems to be even more concerned with gaining leverage with the state legislature. This is a worthy goal, but not one that is likely to promote a useful debate on the merits of withdrawal.

I am expecting a call from Mr. Wilhelm of MSAD 75 and am interested in his opinion.

Burr Taylor

1/12/06- 4:00 pm

The vote on January 28 is a vote to see if we want to withdraw. It is not the best - or even a good - way to get the information we need.

I am concerned about procedure. If Harpswell thinks it might be better off if we withdrew from MSAD 75, there should be a study which would consider the benefits of withdrawal and the benefits of remaining AND the residents of town should be given plenty of time to consider these issues. This should be done before we vote on whether or not we would like to withdraw.

Some people have said that they feel the vote on January 28 will be a vote to get us started thinking. As far as I can tell that is incorrect. We will be voting on whether or not we want to withdraw from MSAD 75. (Click here to see the approximate wording we will be voting on.)

If the vote is yes, a committee will be formed whose duties will be to negotiate with MSAD 75 to create an agreement about the details of the withdrawal.   Based on comments people made at the hearing, it appears many people think that this effort will clarify the issues of whether we want to withdraw. I do not think that is correct. Instead the committee will have to come to an agreement on 11 items (which you can read by clicking here) I do not see how coming to an agreement on these items will help Harpswell come to terms with most of the questions that went unanswered at the hearing. In other words the agreement will not answer the question of where the students will gain the best education for the best price. It will only resolve certain certain money problems such as transportation.

 
 

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Last edited on 01/07/2010