High costs and loss of local identity prompt Litchfield to consider withdrawing from RSU 4

LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield committee tasked with exploring the removal of Regional School Unit 4 used its first meeting to review its goals, discuss concerns with the school district and pose questions to the town’s attorney on how to move forward in the process.

Percy Gowell, chair of the committee, said the committee will only explore the option of opting out of the school district if it’s something the city wants.

He said he personally believes the city has lost “local control” of its schools by being part of RSU 4.

“I went to Libby-Tozier (school), and we had a local marching band, and when we had a parade, parents, grandparents, all of these people were there,” Gowell said. “It’s part of our city’s identity and part of that has been lost. … As someone who’s lived here all my life, that’s what excites me.

Gowell said that as a business owner in the town, he had heard residents’ concerns about the school district, mainly after an August referendum that called for the three RSU 4 towns – Wales, Sabattus and Litchfield – to fund a $31 million renovation in Oak Hill. Intermediate school. The proposal also involved closing Libby-Tozier and Sabattus elementary schools, which need millions of dollars in repairs to meet state standards for school buildings.

All three cities overwhelmingly rejected the plan, with 91% of voters opposing it.

“I don’t know how many people have come up to me and said, ‘This is crazy, we have to get out of RSU,'” Gowell said.

chadd Hill, another committee member, said he’s heard people say they don’t get enough information about the school district and how the district’s budget affects their taxes. He acknowledged that there can be a lot of information for voters to sort through, especially when it comes to understanding the “local supplement” part of the budget.

In a school district’s budget, the state determines a percentage of the budget it will pay and calculates the number of teachers, nurses, and other positions a school needs to accommodate the number of students it needs. she disposes. Cities already pay a percentage of the school budget, but any additional positions or needs beyond what the state will pay for are funded by taxpayers in the “local supplement” portion of the budget. The state formula can be difficult for a district that has multiple school buildings in dispersed cities. This creates the need for more staff so that each building can meet its needs.

Committee members said that if the city decides to pull out of RSU 4, it could end up costing it more money than it is already paying under the school district. With this in mind, the committee plans to offer several options to the city, such as the possibility of joining another city and creating a new district.

In order to officially start the withdrawal process, residents must weigh in with a vote, and then another committee consisting of a school board member and a selected council member must be formed before the city can begin the lengthy process.

The date of the next committee meeting has yet to be determined, but committee members — Gowell, Hill, Tom Wood and Mike Sherman — decided they would ask questions about the process to hand over to the attorney for the city to discuss. Litchfield’s committee of four residents met in person, but streamed the meeting live on Zoom, which drew a handful of members of the public.

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