By an overwhelming majority, registered voters from the towns of Windham and Raymond approved a new formula for splitting the cost of running Regional School Union (RSU) 14. The revised formula raises the obligation for Windham taxpayers and lowers the cost for Raymond residents. By a lopsided total of 167 yes votes, 22 no votes, Raymond residents will see a decrease of approximately $90 on their taxes for a $250,000 home. Windham taxpayers will see an increase of $50 after three years.
The RSU14 school board proposed that there should be a three year phase in cost sharing formula until Windham pays 64 percent and Raymond pays 36 percent of any costs that are not covered by the State of Maine. The cost sharing also had a stipulation that any debt taken on by the individual town would be the responsibility of that town.
At a public hearing before the secret ballot vote at the Windham High School auditorium, resident Dave Douglas testified that the vote, cast not in conjunction with a general election, was “not a proper demographic.” Moderator and attorney for the school district, Bill Stockmeyer, explained that the vote was legal under the consolidation agreement between the two towns.
Superintendent Sandy Prince said he that a segregated vote was probably a better way to address cost sharing because the issue was complicated, requiring public hearings and various media publicity, and best considered in isolation.
Board of Directors chairwoman Marge Giovani added that in order for any new formula to take effect for this year’s budget, the matter had to be settled by the end of March.
Results of the balloting were announced within minutes of the vote, which was conducted in the auditorium. Many greeted the final tally with applause. Raymond resident Peter Dunn said he was “glad (the issue) finally came to vote,” but that the formula should have been adjusted sooner.
Windham resident Dave Tobin said he could understand both sides of the somewhat contentious issue and that he favored the referendum.