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Regional Center applications move forward, incentives reduced

The Department of Education has approved 19 regional service center applications to move to the next phase, but has eliminated the most lucrative incentive to encourage the collaboration.

The proposals include four from Aroostook County, four from Cumberland County; one from Kennebec County; one from the Mid-Coast; two from the Penquis Region; four from Western Maine; and, three from York County. They involve 96 discrete districts, 11 of which are involved in more than one proposal.

Shared services range from special education and central office functions, to putting an addition on a region’s Career and Technical Education school for a vehicle and equipment repair shop where area schools could get work done. Others deal with the hiring of substitute teachers; professional development; increasing the diversity of the teaching staff to better match the student population; and more.

The approved applicants can now proceed to Part II of the application, which must identify participating school districts; specific purposes, functions, programs and services the center will provide; governance structure; how savings from the formation of the center will be used; and, their inter-local agreement or the locally adopted rules around how they will operate and be governed. Part II applications are due April 15.

State statute passed as part of the biennial budget in July includes both a penalty that is waived for those that join a regional center and an additional, sizeable incentive. While there was discussion between the department and districts that both sections of the law would come into play for those that successfully completed Part I applications, the most substantial incentive is no longer part of the proposal.

Guidance issued by DOE Commissioner Robert Hasson acknowledged the confusion in the field.

“There have been many questions about the funding available from the Department as there are multiple provisions in statute that pertain to the funding that school units pursuing a regional service center shall be eligible to receive. Some of these provisions in statute are potentially duplicative or contradictory, so the Department offers the following guidance for the 2018-2019 school year.”

The DOE determined that districts whose Part I applications have been approved will see some part of an additional $46 per student allocation for district system administration costs, based on what percent receiver they are of state aid. That amount will appear on their ED 279s in early 2018. That percent will go no lower than 30, so even minimum receivers will get something. The funding will become available to the centers in 2018-2019 once their members have ratified an inter-local agreement.

Language around that funding, except for the 30 percent language, can be found in Title 20-A, §15680-A, It reads:

2.  Fiscal year 2018-19.   For fiscal year 2018-19, the system administration allocation is $138 per pupil. Of this amount, $92 must be allocated to the school administrative unit for system administration and $46 must be allocated as a targeted amount to school administrative units that have established regionalized administrative services pursuant to chapter 123.

What is not being offered by the Department of Education is a second incentive in statute that would have amounted to an estimated $60 to $140 per student, based on parameters that no district would receive less than 30 percent or more than 70 percent of a system administration allocation estimated at $200 per student.

1.  Calculation of school management and leadership center per-pupil rate.   The commissioner shall calculate a per-pupil amount for school management and leadership center administration. The per-pupil amount for school management and leadership center administration is based on the actual General Fund expenditures for school administrative units with 2,500 students or more for the functions of school boards, elections and central offices, as defined in the State’s accounting handbook for local school systems for the most recent year available, excluding expenditures for administrative technology-related software and less miscellaneous revenues from other local governments, divided by the average of October and April enrollment counts for that fiscal year and adjusted by appropriate trends in the Consumer Price Index or other comparable index.

4.  Total allocation and state contribution.   The commissioner shall determine an eligible school administrative unit’s total school management and leadership center allocation under subsection 3 as the school management and leadership center per-pupil rate in subsection 1 multiplied by the school administrative unit’s subsidizable pupil count for October 1st of the most recent calendar year prior to the year of funding. The state contribution for each school administrative unit’s school management and leadership center allocation is the allocation multiplied by the school administrative unit’s state share percentage pursuant to section 15672, subsection 31, not to exceed 70% and not less than 30%.

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