It’s to be expected. Citizen’s unreasonably taxed will strike out for relief. Citizen’s who fear being unreasonably taxed will do the same.
Danville Wants to Spread the Burden
Danville’s Board of Selectmen is in unanimous agreement that the school district’s funding formula must change. They have spearheaded a petition for the Timberlane School District ballot to ask voters to approve a change to the district’s Articles of Agreement that would determine the way each town in the district contributes to the operational expenses of the schools. Right now each town pays on the basis of their student enrollment (Average Daily Membership). If Danville’s petition passes, each town would pay exactly the same school tax rate which means that towns with higher valued properties pay more in total than towns with lower valued properties. Under this arrangement, Danville and Sandown would benefit at the expense of Atkinson and Plaistow.
Is this fair? That all depends on your political philosophy. Should each town pay for their own children’s education, or should wealthier towns subsidize poorer towns? The warrant article draft is at the end of this posting. Their tax rate proposal can be found here. FY15 School Calculation – V04 (Danville’s school taxes would go down $6 per thousand while Sandown’s would go down $3 per thousand. Atkinson’s school tax rate would go up $3.50 per thousand.)
As a representative of Sandown, you might think I would be in favor of helping our overtaxed town get out from under its burden. I wish I could embrace Danville’s initiative but I can’t because I think it is short-sighted and does not address the fundamental issue which is that the cost per student is way too high. (See forthcoming post, “The Truth about Cost Per Pupil.”)
Petitions to Study Withdrawing from the School District
Sandown and Atkinson have citizens circulating a Citizen’s Petition for inclusion on their respective town ballots to begin a study into the feasibility of withdrawing from the school district. If the voters of these towns pass this warrant article, then the school board must convene a committee to explore the feasibility of letting the petitioning towns out of the district (and presumably the SAU as well). Since it is unlikely the school board would ever see any feasibility in such a possibility, the individual towns can and certainly would simultaneously prepare a minority report for the State Board of Education, advancing their arguments for separation.
If we cannot get the bottom line of the budget lowered at Deliberative this year, I would support these petitions because I would like to see a study into what would be involved in allowing Sandown to manage the education of their own children. The possibilities are numerous. We could possibly send our high school students to Pinkerton at a much reduced cost from what we are paying to send them to Timberlane now. ($10,700 vs. approx. $15,200). We could also open a charter middle school in Sandown Central with emphasis on math and science while keeping Sandown North for elementary. Sandown would have control over its own educational costs and have a chance to establish a quality educational system that reflects its values. At the very least a study into these possibilities is a study whose time has come, most certainly if we can’t get control of the budget. Sandown currently provides $15,507,268 in taxes and education grants to Timberlane to educate our 986 students. That is $15,727. per child from kindergarten through to high school. Can you imagine a private kindergarten or elementary school charging that much money? Tuition for Central Catholic High School In Haverhill is just $12,260 this year including athletic fees. Suffice it to say, there is a case to be made that Sandown can do better on its own
Danville’s Draft Warrant Article
The signatories below request the following Warrant Article to be placed on the Official ballot for Town Meeting 2015.
Article 2015-X Timberlane Regional School District Article of Agreement
To see if the Timberlane Regional School District shall replace Article #5 and Article #6 from the April 30, 1964
agreement to read as follows:
5. The operating and capital expenses of the Timberlane Regional School District payable in each fiscal year shall be
apportioned at a rate so each pre-existing district pays the same local school rate of taxation based upon the equalized
valuation as most currently available as determine by the State Tax Commission. All forms of aid and local school impact
fees from each pre-existing district will be applied to reduce the operating and capital expense before apportionment.
Sandown’s Citizen’s Petition
Shall the Town of Sandown, New Hampshire direct the Timberlane Regional School Board to conduct a study
of the feasibility and suitability of the withdrawal of Sandown from the Timberlane Regional School District
and to be completed before October 1, 2015 as per the provisions of RSA 195:25? (Majority vote required.)
Teachers and students are not simply numbers, as Support Timberlane says, but but numbers have the power to hurt families when those numbers arrive in the form of an unaffordable tax bill. What is happening before our eyes is the destruction of a school district because its elected officials have allowed the budget to grow wildly undisciplined. Some may characterize this as a fight between quality education and stingy taxpayers, but if you are of that persuasion, ask yourself at what cost per student is it reasonable to expect a school system to run? The majority of the other comparable high performing districts of the same size are doing the job for a lot less than Timberlane, and they all have to meet the same special education mandates as we do.