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.