Monthly Archives: November 2017

Timberlane Budcom Wants $69.6 million Draft II

In an astonishing turn of events, the Timberlane Budget Committee voted tonight to instruct Dr. Metzler to cut $5.5 million from the next budget draft.  The superintendent has been instructed to return with a $69.6 million draft II budget.  First draft was $75.1 million, a 4.7% increase over this year’s budget.

During public comment, School Board Chairman Brian Boyle addressed the budget committee asking them to bring about a 18/19 proposed budget that would be 3% less than the current budget (17/18).

Danville representative, Shawn O’Neil, motioned to have draft II come in at 3% less than the 17/18 budget.

Dr. Metzler said this would mean cutting 100 staff. He sank his own boat when he noted that [under his administration] fixed costs go up $2 million every year.  At this the Representative from Sandown, Allan David, said the taxpayers of his town cannot support this. Others agreed.

The Timberlane Budget Committee voted 6-4-0 to have the draft budget returned to them at about $69.6 million.  The administration made the usual and now exceedingly tiresome moans about how they can’t possibly have the second draft by the next scheduled meeting on Nov. 30, so the chairman said they would review draft II on December 14th.

Mr. O’Neil said to Dr. Metzler that given that the school board had floated this number 6 weeks ago, “shame on you” for not being prepared for it.

If this is a dream, may I not wake up.  Finally a budget committee worth having.

 

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18/19 TRSD Draft 1: UP 3.4 million

Sandown residents, are you still reeling from the $30.78 per thousand tax rate, conveniently due two days after Christmas?

In yet more demonstration of a completely tone deaf school district management “team,” Timberlane’s draft one budget is asking for a $3.4 million INCREASE. We’re looking at the staggering ask of $75.1 million, up $3.347 million in one year. (Enrollment is still falling.)

Timberlane is the poster child for fiscal irresponsibility.  This draft is an insult to the will of the school board, to the beleaguered taxpayers of our district and especially to the oppressed taxpayers of Sandown and Danville.

School Board Chairman Boyle has been quite explicit.  He wants the budget DOWN by $3 million and the board agreed by straw poll that they wanted to see a significant decrease. Down by $3 million, up by $3 million – what’s the big deal?  Taxpayers in this district are a captive audience.  They can suck it up or they can sell their house with a depressed value.

The school board this year has given indications that they will be trying to bring you an honest default budget – a budget that is a true and lesser alternative to the proposed budget, which is the intended purpose of a default budget.  You can be sure this is going to be a mighty struggle since the culture in this district has been to manipulate the default budget to force you into choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea by ensuring the default budget is higher than the proposed budget.

It puzzles me profoundly that taxpayers prefer to suffer this unending abuse rather than assert their authority and undertake the education of their own children under their own management. Sandown is too large to be part of a cooperative district, especially one that knows no bounds on its fiscal appetites.

We all know draft one is just a draft.  With the mighty hand of God, the budget committee and the school board might be able to whittle it down by $1.5 million and think themselves heroic; meanwhile, draft one should have come in showing a $3 million DECREASE. It’s one big, insulting game on the back of your sweat.

2019 TRSD Budget – Draft 1

 

 

 

 

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Sandown Tax Rate: $30.78

I don’t know about you, but for me $30 per thousand is a psychological breaking point. Sandown’s property tax rate this year is $30.78.  We’ve outstripped even the notorious town of Danville which has a comparably attractive $28.25 per thousand this year.

Tax rates have to be understood in the context of property values, and though Sandown’s tax bills will not be going out until November 27th, I can be absolutely certain my property taxes will be going up at least $700 this year, and probably more.

Our school board representatives, our school budget committee representatives, our selectmen and our town budget committee all need to get a whiff of reality.  These punitive tax rates depress property values, force the elderly from their homes, and create an economic downward spiral.

The school district budget for next year is being drafted now and as usual the administration does not want to reveal their bottom line until the very last moment.  Your elected representatives let them get away with this strategic ploy every single year. The less time there is to react, the harder it is to marshal arguments and data against increases.

You are currently paying $20,000 per student for every grade level.  (The budget divided by the number of students = approx. $20,000 per student.)

If you think this is good value and you are happy with 9% tax increases year after year, then I wish you the warmest of holiday cheer when you write your check to the Town of Sandown on Dec. 27th.  The rest of us will be wondering where it will end.

Tonight SAU 55 is holding a “public hearing” on their budget which becomes part of Timberlane’s budget.  It includes a new full-time staff position.  Why not?  You can’t do a darn thing about it.

It’s all one big, wet raspberry to the public.

 

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How Small School Budget Increases Result in Large Town Tax Increases

My first year on the Timberlane School District Budget Committee was one of utter befuddlement.  The budcom passed a budget with a seemingly modest increase of 1.98%.  To my subsequent surprise and horror,  Sandown’s school taxes went up 9.5%.

How can small increases in a school district budget become so magnified at the town level?  Take 10 minutes to listen to a concise but fun explanation of how this happens.  You will gain fresh insight into the dynamics of school funding, making you the only person at your Christmas party to really know what is going on.

One potato, two potato, taxes!

Those who wish to know more are invited to attend the School District Governance Association’s seminar on state education funding, “Downloading:  Fact or Myth?”

Saturday,  Nov. 18, 2017   Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications,

Manchester, NH  9 a.m. – noon

Advance registration required:  www. SDGANH.org

 

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Blast from the Past

In reviewing old school board meeting clips, I came across this gem that so captures the attitude of the SAU to accountability, transparency, and their proper place in the peeking order.  This video clip captures an SAU board discussion about hiring a new full-time SAU employee.

Surprise, we have a new position in the 2018-2019 budget, too!

Of course the superintendent never answered my question and of course the board voted for a new position.  October 2014.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

Looking ahead to the proposed budget for Timberlane 2018/19, should we be interested in facts?

It would be interesting to know the October 1 enrollment, usually published by mid-October.  At last week’s School Board meeting (Nov. 2), Superintendent Metzler promised the enrollment would be provided to the next School Board meeting on Nov. 16.

Also interesting would be facts about the district staffing.  The policy on this is “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.

I am not presently on Budcom, so I can both ask and tell.  Here’s the district staffing reported to NH DOE on the A12B reports submitted in mid-October.  (The numbers are full-time equivalents.)

Staff FTE Oct 2017

 

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Timberlane Test Scores Nothing to Hoot About

Guest contribution by Arthur Green with editorial assistance of D. Green

Timberlane Regional School District’s mascot is an owl. Unfortunately, the district’s latest academic results are nothing to hoot about. Both SAT and Smarter Balanced scores show the district hanging by a feather above the state average while spending $800 per student more than the state average. Compared to our comparable districts, though, we’re really in bad shape.  Timberlane spends $1,900 more per student for nearly identical average results.  The districts that outstrip us academically spend far less.

Overview of comparable school school district SAT results

SAT Comparison 2017

Please note:

  • Timberlane is slightly better than state average (+2 in English, +1 in Math), but slightly worse than the average of comparable districts (-1 in English, average in Math)
  • There are 2 comparable districts, Bedford and Salem, which exceed Timberlane in both scores
  • There are 4 comparable districts, Concord, Hudson, Merrimack and Rochester, that are below Timberlane in both scores
  • Per Pupil costs are shown for 2016, because 2017 CPP is not yet available but will likely show similar relationships.
  • My post on this topic last November discussed my methodology for selecting comparable school districts, and for comparing evaluation results which used different tests in different years.

Historic Grade 11 assessment results for Timberlane

SAT 2017 Time Series

1:00 on the graph is the NH state average score; different tests were used in different years.  The most recent result (2017) was for SATs.

Observations:

  • The 11th Grade assessment in English has gone up compared to NH average two years in a row, and is 3% above the state average.  Peak achievement in recent years was 5% above state average in 2013.
  • The Math score dropped to 2% above state average compared to 5% above last year.  The recent peak achievement was 8% above state average in 2013.
  • Achievement has recovered from significantly weak results in 2015 – 22% below state average in Math, and 15% below state average in English

Scatter Chart of TRSD 11th Grade Assessments

SAT 2017 Time Scatter

What this shows:

  • No consistent trend of improvement over time
  • 2017 – slightly better in English, slightly worse in math
  • Current results are clearly better than recent low points (2011, 2015) but not as strong as the recent high point in 2013

Comparative Scatter Chart of TRSD 11th Grade Assessments

SAT 2017 Comparative Scatter

What this shows:

  • Clearly stronger results in Salem, and outstanding results in Bedford (both lower cost districts than Timberlane)
  • Weaker results in Merrimack, Hudson and Concord, and terrible results in Rochester.
  • Dover and Londonderry are stronger than Timberlane in English, weaker in Math.  Keene matches Timberlane in Math, is weaker in English.
  • Only Timberlane, Salem and Bedford exceed the state average in both English and Math

Let’s look at the cohort who wrote the 2017 SAT, the class of 2018, as they advanced through the grades…

Assessment scores of 2018 cohort:

Class of 2018 Raw Assessment History

The solid line is the Timberlane score, the dashed line of the same color is the NH state average in the same subject area.  Note that this is a sequence of tests which are not strictly comparable as the assessment methods and tests change from year to year and from grade to grade.

Let’s restate the Timberlane 2018 cohort results as a fraction of the state average, or in other words, how does the percentage of Timberlane students scoring proficient or better compare with the percentage in the state who scored proficient or better, with 1.00 being the state average.

TRSD 2018 Cohort Compared with State Average (=1.00)

Class of 2018 Scaled Assessment History

This shows a steep drop in achievement of this group from Grade 3 to Grade 5.  Students started out in the Grade 3 assessment 10% better than the state average in Math, and 13% better in English.  By Grade 5, they were just 2% above the state average in Math, and 3% better in English, which is about where they ended in Grade 11.

Another way of visualizing the same information is through this scatter chart:

class-of-2018-assessment-scatter-chart1.jpg

On this chart, points high and to the right are good, and movement downward and to the left is bad.  The axis crossing of (1,1) represents the state average in Math and English.  And the progress of the class of 2018 is from a strong starting point in Grade 3 diagonally downward to that average, with some hopeful improvements (Grade 7 English in 2013, Grade 8 Math in 2014) which did not hold up for the final Grade 11 assessment.

Here’s an interesting factoid.  Each of our Grade 11 students to 2017 represents an investment of $170,000 over their school careers.  Our Grade 12 class of 2017 represents an investment of $181,000 each, or $54 million for the 300 graduating class.

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