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Fort Town Council Adopts 

NextGen Scholarship Program


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 7, 2011

The Fort Fairfield Town Council recently voted to establish a NextGen and Next Step scholarship program for youths living in Fort Fairfield. The NextGen would provide up to $250 for every newborn in Fort Fairfield and the Next Step would provide an initial $50.00 savings account setup for every child entering kindergarten in the town, with matching funds of up to one third coming from outside sources. While the council initially pledged to back the program this year, it is the intent to market the benefits to other entities who may choose to participate in assisting with the funding.

The adoption of the scholarship programs was conceived by the Fort Fairfield Quality of Place Council, which was formed to develop new ways to entice people to move to Fort Fairfield. A scholarship for all Fort Fairfield newborns and those children entering Kindergarten in Fort Fairfield schools is one of the novel ideas they have come up with.

It was suggested by a citizen that the town set up a scholarship program set up through the NextGen program as administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). “We visited with Karen Vigue, from FAME, who manages the NextGen program. After that meeting, she put together a proposal for Fort Fairfield which outlined Fort Fairfield, in its progressive way of thinking, is the first community in the State, or even the country, to entertain establishing a NextGen scholarship program for their newborns,” said Mike Bosse, Executive Director of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce. “She also introduced us to another program because in the wake of everyone jumping on board with newborns, older kids are being left out. The other program is the Next Step program which would have the town establish a college saving fund for kids who enter kindergarten. We brought her proposal to the Quality of Place Council and they voted to recommend the town council to endorse their recommendation to establish a $250 scholarship fund for newborns and to establish a $50.00 savings account for kindergarteners.”

In real money, with approximately 40 newborns a year in Fort Fairfield, that would translate to approximately $10,000. With around 40 children entering kindergarten per year in Fort Fairfield, for budgetary purposes it was estimated the Next Step program would be an additional $2,000 commitment. What the Quality of Place council is asking is that the town will put forth the money to fund these two programs at approximately $12,000.

While the initial impetus for funding comes from the Fort Fairfield taxpayer, Tony Levesque, who also sits on the Quality of Place Council indicated it was part of the discussion that funds can be sought from other entities, like the Fort Fairfield Development Corporation to subsidize this program. “There may be donations from other entities to the foundation or whatever we create for NextGen Fort Fairfield,” said Levesque. “It is a novel idea, it's the first in the State of Maine and a lot of people may want to help us contribute, rather the taxpayers. It may not need anything immediately from the council, but they're making sure it happens by pledging the funds.”

According to town manager, Dan Foster, the money can't from this year's budget because it's already been approved. “The amount we would spend would come from our emergency reserve account,” explained Foster. “Then what we would do is we would look at, as we prepare for the 2012-2013 budget, along with everything else, what we could afford to do. So, the commitment the council was being asked for was for this fiscal year only. Each year we would look at the status of the program and financially the extent that we think we can continue to participate. It is certainly a very worthwhile program. Tony makes a very good point that there are other entities and individuals who might be willing to participate in this which would minimize the cost to the taxpayer.”

“This is really an incredible program; living in a society where everyone seems to be taking everything away and no one is really investing in the youth,” said town councilman, Terry Greenier. “This puts out another stamp on the town of Fort Fairfield that even though we may be a small community, we do quite a bit to improve the lives of those here.”


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