Rep. Kinney’s bill could help SAD 72 project

 

Rep. Jonathan Kinney

Rep. Jonathan Kinney

State Representative Jonathan Kinney (R-Limington) has introduced a bill to help SAD 72 and potentially other schools like it to obtain a fair level of funding from the state government for the construction of “basic” schools — schools that meet state Department of Education architectural guidelines.

LR 2283, “An Act To Limit Local Contributions to School Construction,” was inspired by a recent and much-publicized problem faced by SAD 72, which is comprised of Brownfield, Denmark, Fryeburg, Lovell, Stoneham, Stow and Sweden.

The district was told that the construction of the new elementary school adjoining Molly Ockett Middle School would be 100% covered by the state. Two years and $200,000 in planning costs later, however, the state Department of Education (DOE) informed the district that the towns would be responsible for nearly 35% of the cost of the project, or roughly $9 million.

“The SAD 72 board was understandably outraged by this,” said Rep. Kinney. “The state went back on its word about the school construction costs and that really caught us off guard. If we don’t solve this problem, local property tax payers will be devastated.”

Kinney’s bill would cap school districts’ share of the cost of constructing basic schools at 10%.

“Working on this school funding issue will be one of my top priorities in the upcoming session which begins in January,” added Rep. Kinney. “We have to prevent property tax payers from getting hurt.”

Meanwhile, SAD 72 officials continue to explore what option taxpayers will favor to replace the C.A. Snow School.

Initially, the district proposed two building options — Option B would call for a building attached to Molly Ockett Middle School to house Snow School students, as well as moving fifth graders from New Suncook and fourth/fifth graders from Brownfield-Denmark, thus eliminating all portables; Option C would shift all elementary students to the Molly Ockett campus.

At their September meeting, the SAD 72 School Board decided to postpone making a decision on the building project. A survey is currently available at the district website (ww.msad72.org), which asks for citizen input regarding the project. The survey deadline is this Friday, Oct. 25.

The Ad Hoc Building Committee will tabulate the survey results, as well as explore viable options that “weren’t on the table” initially and answer questions raised at public informational meetings.

“Both the Building Committee and the School Board felt strongly that to honor the feedback we received, there is a need to do more work on exploring the feasibility of different options and of getting a more representative sample of feedback, given that we received only 67 responses from the public meetings,” said Superintendent of Schools Jay Robinson on the SAD 72 website. “One last point to mention is that this is a process…The goal at this stage is to arrive at a concept that gains public approval. From there, we will continue to go through the steps needed to bring the project to fruition.”

And if Rep. Kinney’s bill passes, the cost of the project may be less.

Rep. Kinney is serving his first term representing Baldwin, Cornish, Denmark, Limington, and Sebago in the Maine House. He serves on the legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, and can be reached at repkinney@gmail.com

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