ROCKLAND — The Rockland area school district and the St. George Municipal School Unit have settled a longstanding dispute over how much St. George owed for student special education tuition.

“I’m excited to share that our districts worked together closely through the summer and fall and we’ve resolved this issue,” St. George Superintendent Mike Felton said Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent John McDonald said on Dec. 7, “I am quite please that this issue is now resolved and both St. George and RSU 13 are working together on a new special education tuition agreement and fee structure that will be acceptable to both districts moving forward.”

McDonald said St. George is paying $620,000 this year and $27,000 next year, which will settle back payments due on special education tuition.

Felton said the St. George MSU accrued money over the years to cover RSU 13 special education costs.

“We used this accrued money to cover the $620,000 payment, so this payment did not cost our taxpayers additional money above what we had already raised. We plan to raise the $27,000 in the fiscal year 2024 budget and pay RSU 13 that amount next fiscal year. We’re grateful to have worked with RSU 13 to finally resolve this issue,” he said.

The issue of the unpaid money was first raised publicly at an RSU 13 Board meeting in May 2019 and the amount was said to be $1.3 million. St. George made a payment of $327,000 shortly after that announcement.

“It seems like at each board meeting another bomb is being dropped,” then-board member Doug Curtis said at the May 2019 meeting. “I feel like I’ve been punched, knocked down and stomped on.”

The pandemic slowed down efforts to reach an agreement and St. George had maintained that it needed more information from RSU 13 to determine how much it owed. RSU 13 said it had provided all the documentation that was necessary.