School District Withdrawal

Panels' divergence continues

Fri, 09/20/2013 - 10:00am

Wiscasset's budget committee and selectmen are once again offering voters conflicting advice.

They're split on a couple of issues, including a would-be loan for costs to withdraw from Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit.

Selectmen support going with a loan. On September 19, the budget committee opposed it.

There is some common ground. Budget committee members said taking out bonds for as much as $2 million would be better than tapping the town's reserve fund for it. Selectmen have made that same point.

The reserve fund makes money off investments and foots the town's yearly capital spending.

“You get rid of that $2 million, you'll never recoup it,” budget committee member Richard Hanson said.

But members said it's too soon for voters to be deciding how to fund a withdrawal they haven't approved. (Another ballot question November 5 will decide if the town goes through with the withdrawal.)

Questions on funding are premature, member Ray Soule said. “If we have the withdrawal, that's when we should decide how to do it.”

The committee recommends a “no” vote on the proposal to borrow the money; they sided with selectmen on proposed reserve fund use. Both panels oppose that offer, which came from a citizens' petition.

The panels’ mutual opposition to the reserve fund question is the only item they concur on for the November ballot.

Besides recommending a “no” vote on bonding to fund the withdrawal, the committee's other difference of opinion with selectmen concerns a nearly $1million proposed loan for sewer upgrades. If the town borrows $974,000 from the federal government to do the work, the government will match the loan with a grant of another $226,000.

The ballot item doesn't say whether rate-payers or all taxpayers would repay the loan. That made the question too open-ended for committee members' liking.

“I am not opposed to infrastructure, but I am opposed to not knowing who is going to pay for it,” Soule said.

“That's the sticky wicket here,” fellow member Cliff Hendricks said.

Six “no” votes against the loan prevailed over two votes supporting it. Selectmen favored getting the loan.

Susan Johns can be reached at 207-844-4633 or