CSD charter replaced

Tue, 11/28/2023 - 8:45am

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A new Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District (CSD) charter took effect Oct. 25. The document updated the charter first established in 1953 and reworked many times since. According to officials, the new version is streamlined to simplify language and better align with state law.

The new charter took effect the same day as hundreds of other Maine laws from the 131st legislative session, as reported in the Register. The bill was sponsored by District 48 Rep. Holly Stover. 

According to Stover, the former charter met local needs for daily operation of the schools but did not completely meet state law. She said there had been many changes to the charter since the high school opened in the 1950s, some of which conflicted with current law. She said the new version cleaned that up.  

“I think every legislator that's represented this district has had repeal and replace bills for the school district,” she said. “This one was just bringing it up to current standards to comply with state law.” 

Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler said he was approached by Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor town officials who wanted the CSD to make the changes. Kahler said officials from the school district and the two towns, as well as their three respective lawyers, worked together to write the new charter and present it to the legislature. According to the charter, participating towns split cost sharing based on the number of students in each town and cost-sharing amendments can be made via referendum.

“It was clear to me from listening to my board and listening to the selectboards that simplifying this just makes so much more sense because (of) the ability to make a mistake with something as complex as the old charter,” Kahler said. “This just really, really simplifies it.” 

The prior CSD charter was about 20 pages, with nearly as many sections. Kahler and Stover said it had archaic language and referred to outdated concepts such as coupon bonds, which no longer exist. The charter now states it follows certain laws, which limits the need for further amendments even if those laws get revised, according to Kahler. The end result is a two-page document with nine sections. 

“... Those laws are updated regularly, and if we're following them and we're saying we're following them, then we don't need to constantly update a charter …,” Kahler said. "It just makes it cleaner than referencing a 17-page document with four or five different amendments to make sure what we're doing is complying with the charter.” 

The new charter contains more opportunities for voter input. It introduces a previously rejected budget validation referendum, in which voters decide whether they agree on the budget as set at the town meeting. It also requires the board of trustees to call a referendum on bonds over $250,000. In addition, it permits the school board to perform the duties of the board of trustees if approved by voters.