OWLS HEAD — Several residents attended the Friday, July 15, meeting of the Select Board to say they were prepared to create an ad-hoc committee to study options for educating students that could include withdrawing from the regional school district.

The meeting occurred as the Select Board prepares to finalize the municipal budget for 2022-2023 at its Monday, July 18, meeting.

Budget Committee Chair Robert Hirsch said Owls Head will pay Regional School Unit 13 an additional $366,622 during the next year, an increase of 9.4%. The school budget has already been approved by voters in the district and is not part of the municipal budget.

The Select Board meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the community building will finalize the proposed budget that will go before voters at the Aug. 29 annual town meeting which starts at 6 p.m. The location of the annual town meeting has not been set.

Hirsch said the municipal portion of the budget is increasing at least 7%.

The current 2021-2022 municipal budget was approved last year at $1.1 million.

Hirsch said the town faces a very difficult situation with its payments to the regional school district increasing 9.4%. He said Owls Head receives no reimbursement from the state’s school funding formula while the other communities in RSU 13 do receive state aid. Many residents are retirees on fixed income but income does not figure into the state formula.

Owls Head resident John Murphy called for the ad-hoc committee that should look at all options. He said he was not calling for withdrawal but that could be an option with the town paying tuition to send students to other schools.

“It’s completely out of control. There’s no accountability,” Murphy said about the school district.

He said St. George did the right thing when it withdrew from RSU 13. St. George residents voted in November 2014 to withdraw and that formal break occurred July 1, 2015. St. George has its own kindergarten through eighth grade school and gives students options on where they can be “tuitioned” for highs school. Many of the St. George students attend RSU 13’s Oceanside High School in Rockland.

Murphy said he has not spoken to anyone from St. George who is not happy with the decision to break away from RSU 13.

Owls Head’s representative to the RSU 13 Board Maria Devery said if there was an effort to withdraw, it would not be a quick fix since it would take at least two years. She said Owls Head only sends 147 students to the district and there are students in Owls Head who are either home schooled or attend private schools.

She said Owls Head pays about $28,000 to $29,000 per student.

She pointed out Owls Head has few municipal services since there is no police department nor trash collection, yet taxes are going up due to the higher school costs. Devery said she tried to make reductions in the school budget but a majority of board members opted not to agree on issues such as adding a second assistant principal at Oceanside High. Devery opposed that addition.

She also said class sizes at the elementary schools are low, about 12 to 15 per classroom, and efforts to look at that was thwarted by outdated numbers presented to the finance committee.

Murphy said there is little to no chance of the state changing the education funding formula because that would mean someone else would get less money.

Mike Keating said his 13-year-old daughter is home schooled and he does not plan on sending her to the school district. He said even if whatever changed is approved is not in time for his daughter, it would still support something for the next generation.

At the annual town meeting for Aug. 29, residents will also elect one member to the Select Board. The seat held by Linda Post is up for election. Post said she will seek another three-year term. Post has been on the Select Board since 2005.

The seat that represents the town on the Regional School Unit 13 Board will also be up for election. The seat is held by Devery who was appointed to a vacant seat by the Select Board in November 2021. Devery succeeded Susan Allen Thomas who resigned after serving six years on the RSU 13 Board.

Devery said she would seek election to the post.

Owls Head has one representative on the 10-member regional school board that also includes Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, and Cushing.

Owls Head was part of the School Administrative District 5 that was formed in 1958 with Rockland and South Thomaston. SAD 5 and neighboring SAD 50 (Thomaston, St. George, and Cushing) merged into RSU 13 in 2009.

This is the third time Owls Head residents have discussed whether to withdraw from a regional school district.

In the early 1980s, residents complained of high costs but rejected a study to begin the withdrawal process. And, in February 1997, residents voted 131 to 40 against starting the withdrawal process. The supporters of withdrawal had cited high costs and lack of representation for their effort.