Column: Sebago faces critical vote Tuesday on school’s future

By Allen Crabtree

Guest Columnist

Sebago voters are urged to vote in the referendum this Tuesday, Nov. 7. The referendum is of critical importance and will decide if the Town of Sebago withdraws from SAD 61. It will determine the future of our town, our school and the quality of education for our students.

Responding to a very real threat that the SAD 61 School Board could close Sebago Elementary School and bus elementary students to other SAD 61 elementary schools, nearly two years ago Sebago voters overwhelmingly authorized funding for an effort to remove the threat. The town established a Withdrawal Committee, which attempted to obtain a multi-year guarantee from SAD 61 that the school would not be closed, and Sebago would remain in SAD 61. When that effort failed, the committee negotiated a fair agreement for Sebago’s withdrawal from SAD 61.

The withdrawal agreement, which has been approved by the Maine Department of Education, would allow Sebago to keep Sebago Elementary School open and establish its own School Administrative Unit (SAU) as a public school in the town. Students in grades kindergarten through the fifth grade would go to Sebago Elementary School, and the SAU could be expanded to include a pre-kindergarten program and the sixth grade if the SAU chose to do so. Sebago’s middle and high school students could attend Lake Region MS/HS and/or to other schools of parents’ choice.

The new Sebago SAU would not involve a tax increase for Sebago taxpayers. Under a very conservative projection of the costs to operate the Sebago SAU, school taxes are projected to be about the same as the town now pays to SAD 61. A significant difference is that only Sebago voters will vote on our school budget, with local control over our school taxes with the new SAU. This cost projection is consistent with the experience of many other Maine towns, which have successfully withdrawn from their school districts and run their own local elementary schools.

The referendum language states:

“Do you favor the withdrawal of the Town of Sebago from School Administrative District No. 61 subject to the terms and conditions of the withdrawal agreement dated July 20, 2017?”

There is more information about the referendum at the Spaulding Library, Jordan’s Store, Krista’s Four Seasons, Friends of Sebago Elementary School Facebook page, and on the town website: www.townofsebago.org/Pages/SebagoME_WithdrawalMinutes/.

This is an important election that affects every Sebago taxpayer, parent and child. Please learn about the issues and please vote on Nov. 7.

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