BERLIN — The Berlin School Board will ask the Milan and Dummer school boards to consider leaving SAU 20 and joining SAU 3. It believes it can provide administrative services to those two towns cheaper than SAU 20 can.
A letter will be sent to those two boards asking if they would be willing to meet and discuss the feasibility of that change.
The Berlin board's decision to pursue the possibility came after comments made by Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier at a city council meeting to discuss the school budget. He stated at that meeting that he believed Berlin could provide administrative services for less and asked the school board to pursue it.
At present, Milan and Dummer students attend the Milan Village School through grade six. Dummer has an AREA agreement with Milan for those grades and then has a tuition agreement with Berlin for grades 7-12.
Milan has an AREA agreement with Berlin for grades 7-12 that was scheduled to expire in 2015, but it was recently extended for another three years, until 2018.
Both the Milan and Dummer school districts are served by SAU 20, which also serves the GRS (Gorham, Randolph and Shelburne) Cooperative. A committee was formed last year to study whether it was feasible for Milan and Dummer to join the GRS towns in forming a new cooperative. Dummer residents voted at the school district meeting this month not to continue and the town has withdrawn from the study.
"There have been two studies recently, one to study expanding the Milan school to grade eight and one to study joining the GRS Cooperative," Berlin School Board Chairman Nicole Plourde said. "The point of these committees has been purely financial. Gorham taxpayers need to get their taxes down."
Plourde noted until recently Berlin was under the impression that representation on the school board was the issue and they had approached the city council on that, but since discovering it is financial, she said she believes Berlin should offer its administrative services to Milan.
Berlin Public Schools Superintendent Corinne Cascadden said she had not yet looked at the issue in depth.
"The city has a different system than the towns. I don't have an answer as to whether or not we can provide services," she said.
"Our job is to support the districts, administration, staff and students and I think we do it well and in a fiscally responsible way," SAU 20 Superintendent Paul Bousquet said. "I think the services we provide Milan and Dummer are good ones."
The cost to Milan for administrative services with SAU 20 is $118,683, which makes up 18.3 percent of the SAU 20 budget, and for Dummer it is $22,412, four percent of the budget.
"I think it's a little more complicated than he (Grenier) realizes," Milan School Board Chairman Patricia Shute said. "There are a lot of steps, a lot of exploration, a lot of work to do to see if it can even happen."
Shute said her board would discuss it at its next meeting.
The relevant state law is RSA 194-C.
Generally, the process would start with a question on the school warrants or an official ballot asking if the town/city wants to form a planning committee. If the planning committee recommends a change (withdrawal and/or reorganization) the committee must prepare a plan. A public hearing on the plan is held and it is submitted to the state board of education, then to voters. It requires a 3/5 approval.
There are separate sections for the organization, reorganization and withdrawal that would follow in the law, but they are substantially the same, requiring a planning committee and 3/5 approval by the districts involved.