2012-05-31 / Letters

RSU 23 is not good for Saco students, taxpayers

To the editor:

Regional School Unit 23 is not serving the best interests of Saco children or its taxpayers.

Saco is picking up more than two-thirds of the costs and paying for expenses we don’t incur. The RSU budget assumes the majority of all revenues will be coming from Saco – $19 million is from taxes. This includes a huge increase in school-related taxes for Saco residents – 17 percent over last year. The increase for Old Orchard Beach is a little less than 4 percent.

But, that is only part of the picture.

Saco also contributes more than $10 million in state subsidy funds to RSU 23. Those funds don’t go just to Saco anymore. Dayton also contributes its state subsidy – about $2 million. Old Orchard Beach is a minimum receiver, meaning it receives a tiny state subsidy – about $400,000. In other words, the state doesn’t subsidize Old Orchard Beach – Saco and Dayton do.

Saco is expected to make sacrifices to maintain the status quo elsewhere in the RSU.

Facing declining student populations in Old Orchard Beach, RSU administration chose to move children from Saco schools to Old Orchard Beach schools – by force if necessary. This has been presented as an overcrowding issue in Saco. It’s really a case of too few students in Old Orchard Beach to support current staffing levels. A mandated redistricting of some part of Saco is part of the long-term plan to solve that problem if enough “volunteers” were not found in Saco. At an April RSU budget meeting, Chairman Gary Curtis’ personal assessment of this plan was that “moving kids around wouldn’t damage anybody’s psyche.”

Resource equalization will never be successful. It’s a one sided relationship.

Resource equalization was billed as a way of equalizing the educational opportunities for all children in RSU 23. There are obvious differences at each grade level across the RSU. French, computer technology and health are all unified arts options at the lower grades in Old Orchard Beach. These aren’t currently offered in Saco. When asked when those programs would be expanded in Saco, the answer given was that it might take a few years.

Just keep paying Saco; eventually you might see some benefits.

The RSU is about to unveil a long-term facilities plan. This plan contains expensive renovation and construction projects for every facility in Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Dayton. When it comes time to figure out who is going to pay for all that, where do you think most of the funding will come from? The cost-sharing formula already assumes Saco pays the most, whether that is a renovation to Saco Middle School or a brand new school in Old Orchard Beach.

This relationship is not working. We can’t continue down a path where Saco does all of the heavy lifting.

It’s time to take back local control. Vote to reject the RSU budget on June 12. And, please support efforts to get Saco out of RSU 23.

Kevin Lafortune

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