News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 27, 2020
Questions and concerns at GSA forum

Under discussion

Castine School Board member Temple Blackwood, left, and Chairman of Selectmen Colin Powell discuss matters at a GSA-hosted forum February 24 at Emerson Hall.

Photo by Eli Forman Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Eli Forman

Representatives from George Stevens Academy addressed a gathering of concerned citizens at Emmerson Hall in Castine on Monday, February 24, regarding GSA’s proposed tuition increase of $300 per student for next year.

Throughout the evening, Head of School Tim Seeley and trustees Sally Chadbourne and Zoe Tenney responded to questions involving how this proposal will affect Castine taxpayers and parents of high school-aged children in the town.

In terms of taxes, Seeley presented calculations based on this years data that demonstrated an increased property tax burden in Castine of $1.67 per $100,000 valuation if the town approves GSA’s request.

Seeley stressed that while these predictions are uncertain, they reflect a general picture of what GSA’s request—which he was quick to point out will need to increase if the school is to retain its current programs—will translate to on paper for Castine taxpayers.

Seeley also explained that these numbers shift depending on how many students a town sends to GSA, with towns that send more students seeing a larger tax increase as a result.

There are currently 14 students from Castine attending GSA. “I think that’s a reasonably typical number,” said Seeley.

Asked whether GSA is planning any cuts to their programs, Seeley responded, “our desire is to not cut anything because anything we cut is going to impact student experience. If, however, it turns out that our towns don’t feel that they can support the tuition level we want…we will have to [cut programs] because you can’t spend money you don’t have.”

Another question posed whether Castine could be asked to pay more if other sending towns decline to approve GSA’s request, to which Seeley responded with a definite no.

“I don’t see a way where we could possibly charge different towns different amounts,” he said. “Our goal is that we continue to be a high school that can serve every child on the peninsula.”

GSA teacher Lee Park urged people to “consider the value,” rather than focusing on the cost. “Not enough time is spent looking at the product GSA delivers,” he said. “If you limit yourself to what the opportunities are going to be for these kids based solely on a dollar here, a dollar there, who are we really serving? After all, this is about them.”