State House News on RSAs Governing Withdrawal

Guest contribution by Arthur Green

On Thursday, the NH House Education Committee acted on HB1303, my bill to clarify the RSAs governing withdrawal from a cooperative school district (background here).

The bill was passed out of committee, amended to establish a legislative commission to study the matter and to recommend changes to the law.  The recommendation out of the house committee was unanimous, and the item is on the consent agenda for the house on March 9.

The terms of reference are to study

  • the process for initiating a withdrawal study
  • the process for approving a withdrawal plan
  • how assets are valued and apportioned among the member districts
  • how to determine what a withdrawing district owes to the cooperative

The proposed commission is to produce an interim report by Jan. 1 2017, and final recommendations for changes to the law by Nov. 1 2017.

Unfortunately, I can’t locate an online link for the amended bill, but Rep. Sanders kindly sent us the text in email:  Amendment to HB 1303 March 3 2016.

I’d like to once again thank the State Reps and Senators who graciously sponsored my proposed bill – Reps Ken Weyler, Jim Devine, Chris True, and Senators Regina Birdsell and Kevin Avard, as well as all the members of the House Education Committee who gave this matter their serious attention, both at public hearing and in their executive deliberations.

It would have been gratifying had the legislators simply passed what we asked them for, but that’s not reality.  The NH legislature is dealing with something like 1,000 bills this year.  This one could easily have been deemed “ITL” (inexpedient to legislate).  Instead, the committee accepted our argument that the issues we raised are material to all the cooperative districts in the state.

We know of three towns which have withdrawal articles on the ballot, and there may be more.  Without action on the ambiguities in the current law, the Timberlane experience last year provides those cooperative districts with a template for nullifying the right of pre-existing districts to have an orderly process for considering withdrawal.

Could this have an impact on a Sandown withdrawal from Timberlane, in the event that Warrant Article 13 should pass on March 8?

At first blush, the answer is no – since the Commission would produce recommendations in Nov. 2017, which could not become law until spring of 2018.  However, it is also possible that the interim report Jan. 1 2017 might recommend changes addressing specific pain points, particularly if any 2016 withdrawal processes show a pattern of abuse similar to what occurred in Timberlane last year.

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7 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

7 responses to “State House News on RSAs Governing Withdrawal

  1. Curt Springer

    They passed what you *should* have asked for: interim study. They were smart enough not to take sides.

    And I don’t understand what the rush is with this second secession effort. Not that I would likely support it in two years, but moving ahead now is cruel to both your supporters and detractors. If somehow your current effort gets to the State BOE, it will die because of the $7miillion buyout (or whatever it is). The current law is crystal clear. I don’t know why you think the State Board would interpret it differently. They will ask their lawyer, if they haven’t already, and s/he will interpret just the same way any lawyer would, as defined by the NH Supreme Court, first the plain text in context then if that fails legislative history (documented, not peoples’ recollections). Have you paid a lawyer yet for an interpretation? If not you should.

    • The current law is not clear at all which is why the committee recognized the need for a commission. If the law were clear, and evidently fair, they would not have moved ahead with recommending a commission unanimously. The RSA has never been tested in court so a lawyer’s opinion would be just that… one opinion of many.

    • Mark Acciard

      Actually Curt the law is not “crystal” and the only way you get to a multi million dollar buyout that the school admin and detractors claim is by acknowledging Sandowns pro rata share of the schools within its borders while IGNORING its pro rata share of the District’s other buildings. Hardly fair or equitable, they paid the same share of those buildings as well and will hence forth(assuming separation) be deprived of that investment.

  2. Curt Springer

    Oh I agree there is lots of stuff in the law re withdrawal that is not clear, not least under what circumstances by whom a minority report can be filed. Your current warrant article banks on one interpretation.

    And I agree that the buyout number is not fair in our situation. But it is what it is. And I don’t think that coming up with a fair number is as clear cut as I think you think.

    While we are on this topic if you are in communication with this commission would you please mention the topic of how to make it easier for two towns to split together. I will never support a single-town district but 20 years ago I thought it was possible for Sanville to join with towns to the north and/or east.

  3. Curt Springer

    Meant also to say, you pay a lawyer the bucks to put him/herself in place of the judge and try to say what the judge would say, or perhaps how many different things a judge might reasonably say. In this case I don’t think there is any wiggle room.

  4. Pingback: Legislative Update: Withdrawal Law Reaches the Senate | timberlaneandsandown

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