SAD 72 voters reject 10% value factor for Academy

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — School Administrative District 72 voters resoundingly defeated an article last week that would have paid a total of 10% Insured Value Factor to Fryeburg Academy for educating its high school students.

The result of the secret ballot saw only 44 SAD 72 voters in favor of the higher IVF for Fryeburg Academy, while 112 were opposed.

All other articles on the SAD 72 budget warrant passed as presented.

Bad news for Fryeburg Academy

Headmaster Dan Lee said the Academy would be in a vicarious financial situation, if taxpayers failed to authorize the higher 10% IVF.

Lee said Fryeburg Academy is already facing a potential operating deficit approaching $400,000, and said the loss of almost $230,000 in IVF would be dire.

“Clearly, that would swell our deficit and push it over $650,000. That is not sustainable  — Fryeburg Academy will not last, at that level of deficit.”

However, the headmaster’s statements didn’t sway SAD 72 voters.

Superintendent of Schools Gary MacDonald told the over 150 people gathered inside the Molly Ockett Middle School May 26 that, as far as he knows, Fryeburg Academy is the only private school in the state that has received greater than the state mandated five percent IVF. He also said Kindergarten through Grade 8 programs would be negatively impacted, if the higher IVF amount were approved by voters. He underscored the fact that the current proposed budget is $900,000 less than the SAD 72 budget was in 2008 and that the District has lost over $2.1 million in state subsidy since 2008.

“Program reductions have been entirely Kindergarten through Grade 8,” MacDonald said.

The IVF is paid to private academies that educate public high school students for major capital improvements and renovations to facilities.

SAD 72 is not required to pay an IVF greater than 5% of Fryeburg Academy’s tuition rate or $500, whichever is less, unless the legislative body votes to authorize the school board to pay a higher IVF.

The school district’s current 10-year contract with Fryeburg Academy, signed in 2004, has SAD 72 paying a 10% IVF to the Academy — that was when the Maine Department of Education paid the full amount of the IVF. Then, in 2009, the Maine Legislature changed the law to allow only 5% IVF, or no more than $500 per student, be subsidized by the state.

Since 2009, Fryeburg Academy has negotiated with SAD 72 to reduce the IVF. However, this year, Supt. MacDonald said, Academy trustees “declined to do that” for 2011-2012.

When asked to speak at the annual budget meeting last week, Headmaster Lee said he was unsure he would be speaking at all and said he came “woefully unprepared” to do that.

Lee said the Academy is trying to “maintain the status quo.”

Seven years ago, Academy officials decided they wanted “to enhance and improve our campus,” but there was “no predictable flow of students from the District,” Lee said.

As for the 10% IVF, Lee told the attendees at the SAD 72 annual budget meeting, “That passage (for the 10% IVF) is in the contract and it will be enforced for the next three years (remaining in the 10-year contract),” the headmaster stated. “Everyone went in (to the negotiated contract) with their eyes wide open, and that’s why Fryeburg Academy stands opposed to a decrease (in the IVF).”

Lee sent memos to Academy employees asking them to attend the May 26 SAD 72 budget meeting and vote in favor of the 10% IVF.

The headmaster said the 10% IVF is needed for operating and maintaining buildings at Fryeburg Academy, but that the monies for the new ones came from private donations and “not from taxpayers.”

SAD 72 Director Norma Snow, of Denmark and a graduate of Fryeburg Academy, spoke on her own behalf, saying she “is privy” to both the District’s and the Academy’s financial information.

“Fryeburg Academy’s portion of the District’s budget has continued to increase, and the taxpayers can not still pay the increased IVF and, at the same time, be able to have our students prepared to attend Fryeburg Academy…I am deeply dismayed that the trustees of the Academy declined to negotiate the IVF. It saddens me that it has come to this — to ask you, as taxpayers, to vote against this. I urge you to vote ‘no’ on Article One.”

Headmaster Lee responded to Snow’s remarks, explaining what the IVF does.

Lee said, “What does the IVF do? Let me try to answer that. The current contract is designed to absolutely guarantee that Fryeburg Academy spent more money on local students than it received.

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