Monthly Archives: February 2016

History Repeats?

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

In 2013/14 year -just four budget years ago – TRSD presented a budget that was $5 million less than what they are asking for now, to educate 400 more students.  The proposed 16/17 budget is a 7.8% dollar increase for a 9.8% decline in students in four years.

Recent History of School Tax Increases

Sandown residents may remember November, 2013 when their property tax bills showed a huge increase of about 9.5% in the school portion.

What had led to that event?  The prior winter, the district had presented a budget of $64,272,000, a seemingly-frugal 1.98% more than the previous year.  True, there was also a new collective agreement with the teachers, which would add another $400,000, but altogether the increase would still be $1,650,000, or about 2.6% more than budgeted for the previous year.

The material presented to deliberative in February did include forecast tax rates.  In Sandown’s case, the increase was shown as $17.24 per thousand, up from $15.87 per thousand.  The deliberative materials did not mention that this represented an 8.6% increase.  With the teachers collective agreement, the forecast tax rate was 9.7%.

But with the top line budget increase of less than 2%, it seems likely that few taxpayers were on the alert for the impact which would arrive the following December.

In the spring of 2013, Sandown property owners received notice of the results of town-wide re-assessment, and most saw a significant decrease in their assessed valuation.  Without the awareness that almost everyone’s assessment had decreased, each individual was potentially expecting that their individual property tax burden would likely drop along with their assessed value.  No such luck.

In 2012, Timberlane had assigned Sandown $9,607,931 as the town share of school district costs, which would be collected from the property taxpayers.  In 2013, the amount, including the approved teachers contract, was $10,520,939.  This was a 9.5% increase.  So on average, Sandown property owners had to pay 9.5% more even though their assessed values had dropped.  Instead of school tax rates in the range of $16 or $17 per thousand, taxpayers were now seeing $20 or $21 per thousand.

So the headline frugal budget increase of less than 2% became a brutal tax increase of 9.5%.

Were taxpayers warned?  Yes, the information was there at deliberative, but few took notice, and none spoke out.

That was then.  This is now.

Fast forward to this year’s budget cycle – the TRSD 2016/17 budget.

On average, the Sandown property taxpayer can expect to see 13.8% added to the school portion of the tax bill in December 2016.

The total budget, $69,334,000, is presented to the public as a 1.48% increase from the previous year.   There is also a new collective agreement with the teachers which, if approved by warrant article, will add another $600,000, for a seemingly-modest increase of 2.4% over the previous year.

Just as in 2013, this ‘modest’ increase will cause taxes to skyrocket.

The TRSD handout at Deliberative included a 2-page “School Tax Rate Recap“.  This tells us that in 2015/16 year, Sandown was assigned $10,889,085 to be collected from the property taxpayers.  For the 2016/17 year, that increases to $12,226,396, an increase of 12.3%.  If the teachers collective agreement is approved, that will add a further $165,384, which will make the total increase 13.8%.  

Sandown cannot afford to remain in Timberlane.

What about impact on the other towns in the district?  Assuming that the collective agreement is approved, here are the tax increases:

Atkinson:   9.4%

Danville:     8.6%

Plaistow:     6.9%

Why the differential impact?  That’s a topic for another day.

By the way, if you’d like to see that page of the Deliberative handout, you will have some difficulty.  You won’t find it on the TRSD web site because their version of the Deliberative package ends at the page before the tax impact: document.

  • 2013/14: just over $64 million to educate 3,924 students
  • 2016/17: $69.3 million to educate 3,528 students









Filed under Sandown Issues

Yes to 13: A Reply to Arlene Bassett

Arlene Bassett’s letter last week in the Tri-Town Times urged Sandown residents to vote “No” on Article 13 concerning withdrawing from the Timberlane School District.  Mrs. Bassett and her extended family are a very valued and active part of Sandown and I am sad we are on different sides of this issue. I believe many of her objections are based on incomplete information about the actual withdrawal plan.
She argued that:
  • Sandown North is already too crowded.  How can we put 6, 7, and 8th grades in there?  This year, Sandown North has 342 students  in grades 1 – 5.  The withdrawal plan has grades 4 – 8 at Sandown North. By 2020/21 when the new Sandown School District is fully transitioned, there will be just 291 students at Sandown North – 51 students fewer than currently – based on NESDEC enrollment projections.
  • We’ll still be a member of SAU 55 with the same superintendent with no vote on the board.  A Sandown School District would have a Memorandum of Understanding with SAU55, clearly delineating its business services to our independent district.  As part of SAU55, we will have voting seats on the SAU board. If down the road SAU55 provides unsatisfactory services, Sandown can vote to withdraw from SAU55 and either join another SAU or run our own.
  • No other high school has promised to take our students.  Only an independent Sandown School District can negotiate a legally binding agreement with any other high school.   After this warrant passes, we would have standing to obtain a letter of intent from  a high school such as Pinkerton, which would form part of the Board of Education review of our withdrawal proposal.
  • If taxes don’t go down, there is no going back.  No one can guarantee that taxes will go down with our own school district, though I firmly believe they willbut you can be sure that taxes will go up with Timberlane.  They are predicting an 11.5% increase for Sandown’s school taxes this coming November. 
But taxes aren’t the only consideration. Our own district will give our students access to a better high school, keep them in Sandown during their middle school years, and give you local control of your child’s education through a school board that you can change and influence by your vote, something we don’t have now.
A “Yes” vote on March 8th is giving our kids a chance at something better and our taxpayers a chance of some relief in the future.  A successful Article 13 will not give us our own district yet – a district-wide vote is required for that – but it will start a process for educational self-determination.
For the full plan, FAQs and replies to more objections, see

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Learn More about Right to Know in NH

Learn more about New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know Law during national Sunshine Week.  Come to a panel discussion on The Right-to-Know Law in New Hampshire: “Where are We? Where are We Going?” on Tuesday March 15, 2016 at 7 p.m. at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.  This event is sponsored by the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Nackey S. Loeb School.

The discussion will cover your right to know what your government is doing, how to access information and when other societal interests compete with your right to know.

The panel will feature experts from all perspectives on the Right-to-Know Law:

  • William L. Chapman, attorney and Board member, New England First Amendment Coalition;
  • Lisa M. English, Senior Assistant Attorney General;
  • Rick Gagliuso, attorney and Board member, New England First Amendment Coalition;
  • Cordell A. Johnston, attorney and lobbyist, New Hampshire Municipal Association;
  • David Saad, President, Right to Know NH, a citizens’ group working to improve access to government in New Hampshire;
  • Trent Spiner, President, New Hampshire Press Association.

The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications is located at 749 E. Industrial Park Drive in Manchester, NH. We look forward to seeing you there!

Used with  permission of Right to Know NH, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving adherence to and strengthening the Right-to-Know Law (RSA 91-A).

Sunshine Week poster


Filed under Sandown Issues

Pollard Flood an “Act of God”

TRSD board member, Jack Sapia of Atkinson said recently that the district’s responsibilities are safety, education and facilities, in that order of priority. I agree with him.  I disagree, however, with the level of conscientiousness our board has in addressing these responsibilities.

Two of these areas of responsibility came up at the Feb. 18th school board meeting.

Student safety.  The district has regular water quality testing done by a very reputable local company. Keep in the back of your mind throughout the discussion captured here, how an inexplicable 6-week lag in test results would play out if a non-trivial issue had been discovered.



Pollard School in Plaistow had significant water damage when a pipe froze and burst in the foyer of the building and took out the sprinkler control panel. The school was closed for two days. From the discussion below you can see the board treating this as an unremarkable event. Mr. Sapia calls it an Act of God, which is hilarious in the extreme because a frozen pipe is eminently preventable. Mrs. Sherman says the important thing is is that the children were safe, and Dr. Metzler starts off without even the courtesy of truthful disclosure.


What the public doesn’t know is that a temporary employee was injured in a fall during the evacuation and was hospitalized.  Taxpayers have been told the district’s health insurance rates went up 21%.  A large part of that is because our risk pool statistics are not favorable because our usage is high. The attitude of your board and administration concerning this facilities event speaks volumes.

Unlike Sandown’s Town Hall which is nearly 100 years old, Pollard’s foyer is of a modern construction.

  • Will the insulation be improved in that area?
  • Will increased heating be directed toward that area in future?
  • What, if anything besides prayer, will we be doing to prevent this in future?

None of these questions were asked or answered so I will assume the answer to all of them is business as usual. See no evil, speak no evil and do nothing is the secret initiation motto of our board.


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Policy vs. Practice

Timberlane Policy DJE

The Superintendent is required to get written competitive bids on purchases of supplies, materials, equipment, and contractual services in the amount of $10,000 or more. As a general rule, purchases of $1,000 or more per item will require at least three competitive documented quotes for the open market. All purchases made in the open market shall be consummated after careful evaluation.

In May 2014, your current board added the following: “Existing services that continue to meet the needs of the district shall be subject to an annual review and may not need to go out to bid.”

This is the pernicious result:

To me, the most flagrant example of the mismanagement of your money is the board’s refusal to insist that all contracts go out to bid on a regular basis. Our auditing arrangement is badly in need of a change because our annual audits are regularly 8 months late and are given to the SAU instead of the school board which is the authority that nominally commissions the audit and is the responsible body for dealing with weaknesses.



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Filed under Expenditures, School Board Behavior, School Board Functioning, Taxes

The Truth is Out There but Where? UPDATED

In the ongoing saga of school board meetings that address nothing, you should know that the school board chairman has ignored my request to discuss the flooding at Pollard School at Thursday’s school board meeting. Voters thinking about installing sprinklers in Danville should pay attention.

WMUR and the Union Leader are suggesting a sprinkler pipe burst because of cold weather. WMUR’s interview with Superintendent Metzler was kindly forwarded to me by Rob Collins. Additionally, the district sent out this notice to school board members:

“Due to the unusually cold weather, the district encountered a few issues today. The delayed opening began with an additional delay for a SN bus due to a traffic issue on Phillipswood.  Parents were notified of the student’s delay in arriving to school. Pollard experienced a water pipe burst in the overhead of the main entrance corridor causing significant water damage.”

This caused me to write the following email yesterday.

Mrs. Steenson:

I would very much appreciate having Mr. Hughes to our next SB meeting on Thursday to  help us understand how a pipe can burst given our considerable investment in software monitoring technology in all our schools – as well as a report on the damage.

Thank you,

Donna Green


Readers should know that every year we have budgeted $25,000 for Building Management System upgrades to one school a year for systems that are supposed to monitor interior temperatures and notify the Facilities Director when temperatures fall dangerously low, among other things.

So my questions concerning this incident are numerous:
  • Did the burst pipe located in the ceiling of the foyer happen because of freezing?
  • Does Pollard have an upgraded BMS?
  • How could an interior pipe get so cold that it burst?

    Mr. Kelly Ward kindly responded to me in an email this morning saying in part:

“The fire department stated that it was not believed to have been related to the cold temperatures but merely a coincidence. This makes sence in the fact that if the pipe had been frozen to the point of bursting, there wouldn’t have been any liquid until the outside temps had risen.  The other part of that is that the fire chief stated that while it was cold in the ceiling, it wasn’t cold enough to have frozen that size pipe.”

Now it is not impossible that the press got this wrong and just assumed the weather caused the problem, but then why would Mr. Collins be circulating a news story without a correction?  And why would the district attribute this to the cold as well?  Perhaps it’s as simple as people assuming it was the cold when the fire chief knew better. In any event, there is enough conflicting information out there that I would certainly like to hear from our own Facilities Director as to the cause of the flooding, the extent of the damage, and the remediations being done to prevent this from happening again.

Here are some of the other responses from fellow school board members on this issue.From the always insightful Mr. Sapia:


No need, we all understand  it was 20 below 0. Water freezes at 0.  We have more important things to deal with!

From Mr. Collins:

Donna, this is a non issue. Happens all of the time, especially in a structure of this type. I support not putting on the agenda, waste of time. My $.02

 No doubt our insurance company is happy to hear how casual we are about pipes bursting.  I’m certainly not happy with a school being closed for two days. Given that we are asking district residents to invest the better part of a million dollars for a sprinkler system in Danville, wouldn’t it be nice to know that these things don’t happen all the time?
Here are other issues that won’t be on the agenda but should be:
  • Water quality report at Sandown Central  dated Dec. 28 and notification to the board dated Feb 10.
  • Rob Collins’ contention publicly and to the board on numerous occasions that an accountant was hired by the district and had confirmed the preliminary Sandown withdrawal buy-out number. It has been learned that the SAU never hired anyone and no one has been paid for any such service.

The truth is out there, but where? Don’t look in board meetings. These are just for show and what they are showing is a profound unwillingness to discuss any substantive issues.

WMUR Pollard

UPDATE Feb. 18, 2016:   Sandown’s Town Hall experienced some flooding also though the Tri-Town Times reports that it was not due to freezing. The Sandown Board of Selectmen released their agenda today for their Feb 22 meeting.  They prudently and responsibly included the flooding under “New Business:” Status and update of flood from holding tank at Town Hall.


Filed under Sandown Issues

A Note to CAW Commentators

Dear Citizens Against Withdrawal Facebook Page Members,

Please note that this page is my real estate.  I will not be posting comments that are mean-spirited, disingenuous and simply an assertion of opinion rather than a genuine weighing of the factual evidence.  You have more than enough organs to spout your bile. And you can sure bet that I am not giving real estate to those who have abused me and my cohorts far and wide on social media without giving us the opportunity to reply.

Post away elsewhere.  This page is open to honest debate and not open to those whose main weapon is, or has been, attacking the person instead of the factual issues. has over 25 reponses to objections. I am certain all genuine questions can be answered by reading the blog post, “CASE Replies to Critics.”

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Filed under Sandown Issues

No Room at Pinkerton? Wrong!

Posted by Arthur Green

There is hot speculation on social media that a vote by Candia to make Pinkerton its school of record will eliminate Pinkerton’s capacity to potentially accept Sandown.

This is not correct.

We have authoritative confirmation that, even with Candia, Pinkerton would still have capacity to consider accepting Sandown.

This confirmation is oral, not written.  I personally participated in the conversation, so this is not an assertion of something I was told at second hand.

There have been some parties demanding to see this confirmation in writing.   This demand is disingenuous.  Those making this demand have toiled since last September to eliminate, through the Sandown Board of Selectmen, any official standing which had been held by the town’s Minority Withdrawal Committee or by Cindy Buco to seek written commitments, or, for that matter, to pursue basic information which has been withheld by TRSD.

There is only one means to obtain official commitment from Pinkerton, or to obtain an authoritative resolution of the buyout fee – that is for Sandown voters to assert through their ballots that they wish to proceed with the Withdrawal Plan as written, which will send it to the Board of Education for the next stage of deliberation.

I suspect that the CAW group knows that Pinkerton offers a better alternative for Sandown than Timberlane, and that they fear that a substantial number of parents and residents associate the Pinkerton option with better education and higher property values.  Last fall, they were frantic to shut down consideration of the option, and now they are frantic to pull the option off the table by spreading false rumors.

Sandown parents and residents have a real choice for better schools at a lower cost.  A YES vote in March will not be the final word, but it will state our town’s intent, and if the YES side prevails it will begin the necessary formal process which could lead to our own town school district.



Filed under Sandown Issues

Letters for Withdrawal

Published the week of Feb 1, 2016, entitled, “Now is the Time to Leave Timberlane.”

Dear Editor:
Thanks to a very productive Deliberative Session on Jan. 30, Sandown voters now have a rare opportunity to assert their own authority over the education of their children and their tax bills. A “Yes” vote on Article 13 on Sandown’s ballot will move Sandown closer to establishing our own school district independent of Timberlane.
When Sandown joined the Timberlane District 52 years ago, we had 47 students. Now we have 1000 students, yet we cannot control our children’s education and our school taxes are out of control.
Timberlane’s budget will have gone up 22% in 9 years while the enrollment will have fallen 24% as of the 16/17 year, with a budgeted cost per student of $19,800. It is unreasonable for Sandown to be expected to continue to pay for such poor fiscal management. Timberlane’s Smarter Balanced scores showed only 29% our 11th graders proficient in math and a mere 50% proficient in reading – both well below the state average.
If you want to control the educational quality available to our children, and our taxes, we have to act now. In 2020 Timberlane’s 20-year bond will be paid off. If we leave the district now, we have very little to pay back on the bond. If we delay,new bonding will almost certainly be coming to upgrade the Plaistow campus athletic facilities. Once new bonding is in place, and perhaps even approved without a majority of Sandown voters, we will have to wait another 20 years to be where we find ourselves right now.
How can I be so sure we can we can do it better for less?  Because a Sandown school
district would be generously funded and a Sandown school board would have no where to hide from you. Your annual vote will be able to change the board and effect the changes you want. As things are now, we are powerless at Timberlane, crushed by a runaway bureaucracy and an indifferent school board that we cannot change.
Our grievances with Timberlane’s governance are long but our opportunity to do something about it is short. A “Yes: to Article 13 will not make us a separate district yet.  That will take one more vote, but it will move us closer to controlling our destiny for the benefit of our children and our property values. The critics of our plan do not fairly represent it. Please see the all details on
Donna Green

Sandown representative to the Timberlane Regional School Board

Published the week of Feb 8, 2016 entitled, “Sandown Can’t Afford to Stay in Timberlane”

Dear Editor:

Sandown’s school taxes are estimated to go up by 11.5% in December, based on information published by the Timberlane School Board. The budgeted cost per student at Timberlane for next year is $19,600.
Those opposed to Sandown withdrawing from the Timberlane District say we can’t afford to leave. I believe we can’t afford to stay. Enrollment has plunged 24% while budgets have increased 22%.
Opponents of withdrawal say it will cost Sandown upwards of $6.4 million in buyout fees.  These people oppose withdrawal on any terms whatever, and have rushed to embrace the buyout fee as a convenient obstacle. Fear of a buyout fee is groundless and should not influence your vote.
The buyout fee is a dispute over a clearly-ambiguous phrase in the NH law governing withdrawal, which cannot be overcome by spending money on lawyers or consultants. By the district’s interpretation, no town could ever have paid its fair share. Supporters of withdrawal think the law supports our claim that Sandown has already paid more than our share of district costs, and would owe no buyout fee.
If supporters turn out to be wrong, there is no risk that voting for withdrawal might unintentionally saddle Sandown with a buyout fee.  The withdrawal plan explicitly states that the plan is invalidated if a zero buyout is ruled to be incorrect by the NH Board of Education.  This would end the withdrawal plan.
The Board of Education will only consider the dispute over the buyout fee if and when the Withdrawal Plan is placed before them for a decision.  Some elected officials have attempted to have taxpayer funds appropriated for legal and consulting investigation of this issue – a pointless waste of taxpayer money.  If Sandown wishes to withdraw, and votes to say so, that will place the question of the buyout fee into the hands of a decision making body.
I have written a bill to clarify the financial obligations of withdrawing towns from cooperative districts such as ours.  It was given a very thoughtful hearing before the House Education Committee on Jan. 28 and I hope that the legislature will address the ambiguities in the current legislation that lead to interpretations that are unjust for any withdrawing town by the time Sandown might need to come to grips with it.
Sandown has an opportunity to have an excellent and very well funded school system while controlling our own taxes.  Many towns our size do it in New Hampshire, and do it well. See for the full Sandown Withdrawal Plan.
Vote “Yes” on Article 13.
Arthur Green

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Filed under Sandown Issues

Details and Other Objectionable Behavior

The following narrative encapsulates much of the objectionable political dynamics at Timberlane. It comes replete with a superintendent indulging in demeaning and bullying behavior towards an elected official who is his superior while being factually mistaken, an irresponsible board that votes on the district’s most expensive contract without even reading it, and includes an illegal non-public to round things out. Please understand the following is not a criticism of the TTA contract, which I support.

At the school budget public hearing on Jan. 14, 2016, I questioned an announced benefit in the new teachers’ contract that I did not recall from the negotiating sessions and which I, a member of the negotiating committee, believed was not part of the new contract. (The superintendent was present, as was I, through the negotiations.)

Here is the discussion.  The superintendent’s disrespectful response to my query begins at 5 minutes into this clip, though the entire clip is instructive for later developments.

Next month at Deliberative, the sick day buyout increase was not mentioned so I asked after that aspect of the contract again. This time I got a very different answer.

Both these meetings took place subsequent to a very interesting episode during the Dec. 17, 2015 school board meeting where my refusal to vote on a contract whose final version I had not seen in print caused the board to go into a paroxysm where Mrs. Steenson said “We’ll have to talk to the attorney,” and Dr. Metzler said, “We have to call a non-public under legal.”

Just so you know, there is no provision under the law to go into non-public to discuss the legal ramifications of a board member’s vote on a public contract. The subsequent non-public was entirely illegal. During that non-public I was given the final mark-ups of the contract changes.  You will note that when we emerged from non-public Mr. Blair corrected the information he had previously given the board concerning the insurance premium sharing arrangement.  To his enormous credit, Mr. Blair did all of this from memory because of his sight impairment and I do not fault him for this error.  I do fault the board as a whole for the irresponsibility of voting for the district’s largest contract without seeing the final written contract – and for allowing my concerns about accuracy to be derided by the superintendent.

Here is what transpired once we came out of non-public on that unusual night of Dec. 17:

In no way do I wish to imply that there is anything wrong in the teachers’ contract and unworthy of your vote.  I was on the negotiating committee and I support the contract. My objective here is simply to point out how conscientious is your school board, how committed to accuracy is your superintendent – and the pressure put on a conscientious member of the board.

Mr. Blair was chairman of the negotiating committee. The other school board members included myself, Mrs. Steenson and Greg Spero.  Mr. Blair is leaving the board and I will miss him.

Dr. Metzler is now Tweeting from a superintendent’s conference in Arizona.

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