RSU 24 building decision not one to be taken lightly

Dear Editor:

Back in June, even though in total the school budget passed, three towns in RSU 24 voted against it (Franklin, Sullivan and Sorrento). Franklin has the most students in the RSU with well over 100.

As we expected, with three towns leaving the RSU (Hancock, Lamoine and Ellsworth), our taxes have increased due to that event and a decrease in state aid.

Despite all these events, the RSU entered into an agreement with a contractor to build a new headquarters building in Sullivan and move out of the office space it occupied in Ellsworth. To avoid going to voters for approval of this move, it agreed to rent the new building for $120,000 per year on a monthly basis which, from what I understand, is about the same as what the RSU was paying in Ellsworth.

Recently, the board decided to pay an entire year’s rent up front rather than monthly, which was supposedly the agreement.

Additionally, now the RSU Board has decided it wants to buy the building from the contractor for $1 million, which it claims will save taxpayers about $40,000 per year. This action will be on the ballot in November 2016. On the surface this all sounds great.

However, if voters approve buying the building, the RSU assumes a $1-million debt, which would be the loan amount plus interest. Right now the RSU has no debt.

By purchasing the building, any repairs, modifications or additions needed would have to be paid for by the RSU (and of course the taxpayers), not the builder, who is also the landlord.

Also, if voters approve purchasing the building, that action makes it very difficult for any town or towns in the RSU to withdraw. That is because withdrawing after the building is purchased means that town or towns that withdraw would have to pay the RSU their portion of the cost of the building. Towns in RSU 24 do not have that kind of money and the RSU Board wants to prevent such an action.

So voters, especially those who have children in school, need to ask themselves if buying the building makes things better long term and really saves taxpayers money or are we better off continuing to rent the building and avoid additional expenses for the building.

Residents should go talk to their School Board representative and their selectmen and see what they think is the best course of action.

Ian J. Staub


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