Public hearing set for Rockland-area school referendum
Rockland — The formal public hearing on the $23.2 million bond referendum for the Rockland-area schools is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at Oceanside High School's auditorium.
The vote on the Regional School Unit 13 bond issue is set for Tuesday, Feb. 28, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.
Absentee ballots, however, are already available at the municipal offices.
The bond referendum will pay for a new pre-kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school on the grounds of the Owls Head Central School to replace both the current Owls Head school and the Gilford Butler School in South Thomaston.
The bond would pay for classroom additions and renovations to Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston to accommodate the sixth-grade students who now spend the mornings in Rockland at South School and then are bused to the middle school.
The proposed borrowing would also pay for renovations and an addition to Oceanside High School in Rockland.
Both Superintendent John McDonald and Business Manager Peter Orne have said that the savings from closing schools will offset the cost of the annual repayment for the $23.2 million in borrowing.
In addition to the closing of Owls Head Central School and Gilford Butler if a new elementary school is built, the district is moving out of the McLain School in Rockland this summer and relocating its offices to South School. Lura Libby School in Thomaston was closed last year.
The savings will come from less maintenance and reduced energy use, as well as greater efficiencies for staff. Currently, teachers in programs such as music and art must travel between schools. At the middle school, sixth-graders are driven to Thomaston each day for allied arts programs, such as music and industrial technology. That travel costs time and money, school officials said.
The superintendent said last month that the package of building projects would meet the needs of the district well into the future.
"We literally won't have to do any more large projects for 20 years," the McDonald said.
Orne said Friday that while the 2017-2018 budget could rise because of increasing personnel costs, there will be no increase due to the bond package approval. He said the current estimate for next year's school budget -- based on current staffing -- is for a 3.5 percent spending increase. He said a budget has not yet been presented to the board.