Category Archives: 2013 TRSD Warrant Articles

SAU Budget Petition APPROVED!

Yeterday, Timberlane voters overwhelmingly approved the citizen’s petition to place the School Administrative Unit #55 budget on future school ballots.  This means residents in Atkinson, Danville, Hampstead, Plaistow and Sandown will now be able to vote to accept or reject the SAU’s budget each year, which is a good discipline for the SAU. 

Timberlane voters were convinced of the need for voter oversight on budgets funded by taxpayers and showed it at the polls.  Unfortunately, the petition failed in the Hampstead School District, but the combined vote in the SAU area was a sound majority:  2,544 – 2,072  (as per The Eagle Tribune).

In other very good news, Sandown elected Cathy Gorman to TRSD Budget Committee with a well supported write-in campaign.  Cathy is on the Sandown Budget Committee and demands value for money while very much wanting to improve public education.

Other like-minded write-in candidates were fielded in Atkinson, Plaistow and Danville but so far election results for these have not yet been released.

Stay tuned!  There could be more to get excited about.

And finally, a note of thanks to Sandown voters who  politely and most kindly stopped in the pouring rain yesterday to talk to me about the citizen’s petition. I was outside the polling station for 11 hours using my outside voice, but it was worth every lonely minute of it.  As one kind soul said to me, “This is what makes democracy work.”

Thank you to Jorge Mesa-Tejada for initiating this petition in Hampstead and getting me onboard for Timberlane.


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Filed under 2013 TRSD Warrant Articles, SAU 55 Issues, SAU petition

A Statistical Snapshot of the School District

Here’s a quick statistical snapshot of our district. You can see a steady  decline in total enrollment since fall 2007.  Teacher/student ratios are also changing.  In 2004-2005 we had one teacher to 12 students and one assistant to 24 students.  In 2010-2011, there was one teacher to 10.5 students and one assistant for every 22.5 students.  Enrollment went down again in 2011-2012.

Don’t miss clicking on the link to Timberlane’s budget growth from 2004 to 2013  (approx. 38%)  along with the SAU’s budget (40.75% in 9 years).

   Staffing to Students at Timberlane Regional School District










4633 (no date)





4592 (1/06)





4535 (9/06)





4653 (10/07)





4496 (10/08)





4398 (10/09)





4275 (10/10)





4162 (10/11)

4072 (10/12)

 *All figures from TRSD Annual Reports published at

Growth in budget 2004-2012 rev 2013


Filed under 2013 TRSD Warrant Articles, Budget Committee, School Board Issues

My Vote on TRSD Warrant Articles

Members of the Timberlane Regional School District Budget Committee are asked to recommend district warrant articles.  Let me explain my recommendations… briefly so I can catch the end of the Oscars.

Article 2 – Operating Budget  My recommendation:  NO

I originally supported the budget, not because I understood it very well, but because it was presented as showing no increase over last year’s budget except for costs imposed on the district by the state pension plan for teachers and increased employee health insurance.   Then I realized, belatedly,  that I had approved a budget that probably had built into it a $2 million surplus, based on the previous year’s surplus that had been staring me in the face but which my inexperience let me miss. Thanks to Len Mullen’s blog, I subsequently learned that our bond interest savings of $80,000 had been gobbled up in the new budget when that could have been a captured budget reduction. At Deliberative, $150,000 was added to the budget for athletic grounds maintenance.  I’m afraid that was the last straw for my support of the 2013-2014 budget. The default budget is fractionally smaller and I will be supporting that budget.

UPDATE (3/2/13) “School Board Notes” mailed to households in the district last week states that the Budget Committee unanimously recommended a $64,422,418 budget. This is not correct.  The Budget Committee unanimously recommended a $64,272,418 budget.  This number was increased at Deliberative by $150,000 and at the subsequent Budget Committee meeting immediately after Deliberative, I was the sole vote against the proposed budget.

Article 3 – Capital Reserve Fund   My recommendation:  YES

A capital reserve fund gives the district money for needed capital improvements.

Article 4 – Collective Bargaining Agreement (Timberlane Teacher’s Association)   My recommendation:  NO

The contract gives teachers a raise regardless of their effectiveness in the classroom. We are the consumers here and we have the power to send a message to the administration that teachers must be held accountable for the academic achievement of their students. We should insist that teachers are cut based on effectiveness, not number of years teaching. Other provisions in the contract are objectionable by any reasonable standard that taxpayers would enjoy in the workplace… accumulated sick days with monetary value, a retirement incentive and a longevity bonus.  See my more detailed objections: New Teacher’s Contract : Money First, Education Last as Usual

Article 5 – Authorization on Special Meeting on Cost Items   My recommendation: YES

My NO vote recorded on the article was an error on my part.   After further consideration, I do support this article.

Article 6 – Fund Balance Retention [Surplus]  My Recommendation:  NO

My NO vote was mistakenly left off Deliberative’s warrant but this should be corrected on the actual ballot.

See my detailed argument against this article:  Fund Balance Retention and Why You Should Vote NO

Article 7 – General Acceptance of Reports   My Recommendation:  YES

Who could say no?

Article 8 – SAU Budget on Warrant Petition by Donna Green et al

Petition warrant articles are not recommended by the school board or the budget committee.  As you might suspect, I strongly support this warrant article.Why the SAU Budget Should Have Voter Oversight

Onto the polls, voters!   (But first a stop for some popcorn…)

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Filed under 2013 TRSD Warrant Articles

Fund Balance Retention and Why You Should Vote NO

When you establish a pot of money for unexpected expenses you inevitably end up guaranteeing the unexpected.  Ever notice that?

On March 12th, Timberlane voters are going to be asked to let the district retain some budget surplus in a fund for future over-expenditures.  On the basis of vagueness alone, Article 6 should be defeated. On the basis of need, it should also be defeated.

The potential surplus fund could be GIANT

I believe the district’s intention is to carry a portion of just one year’s surplus in the contingency fund, but you will notice that the language of the warrant article is completely vague on this point. The fund could be understood to be cumulative year after year. Approving this article could lead to a huge contingency fund that outstrips any reasonable need. (The referenced RSAs are reproduced at the end of this note.)

Article 6:  Shall the Timberlane Regional School District vote to authorize, indefinitely until rescinded, the retention of year-end unassigned general funds in an amount not to exceed, in any fiscal year, 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year’s net assessment, for the purpose of having funds on hand to use as a revenue source for emergency expenditures and over-expenditures under RSA 32:11, or to be used as a revenue source to reduce the tax rate, all in accordance with 198:4-b, II?

Whoever wrote the enabling legislation, intentionally or unintentionally, left it open to the interpretation of future school boards as to whether the fund is cumulative or not.

How each year’s amount is calculated

In 2011-2012 Timberlane’s net assessment was $52,711,205.  Two and a half percent of this is $1.32 million.  Keep in mind that the surplus from 2010-2011 year was $2.2 million.  As things stand now, surpluses are returned to the taxpayers in the following budget year by way of lowering the tax impact of next year’s budget. If you allow the creation of this surplus retention fund, the district could sock away as much as $1.3 million, money that may or may not be returned to the taxpayers.  Just imagine how large this fund could become if it accumulated year after year.

It isn’t needed

The district has a capital reserve fund for  the purpose of  “school building construction, reconstruction, capital improvement and land purchase.”  Major emergency expenditures, such as a new roof, septic system, boiler, etc., all fall under capital improvements.  I have not heard a case for sizable emergency expenditures that fall outside the scope of the already existing capital reserve fund.

This contingency fund is not needed and the authorizing language is so vague as to authorize more than voters would reasonably want to approve.



Timberlane Warrant articles and budget    You will see Article 6 has one “No” vote from the budget committee.  That was from your humble correspondent.

Here are the relevant RSAs

Section 198:4-b   Contingency Fund. –

I. A school district annually by an article in the warrant, or the governing body of a city upon recommendation of the school board, when the operation of the schools is by a department of the city, may establish a contingency fund to meet the cost of unanticipated expenses that may arise during the year. A detailed report of all expenditures from the contingency fund shall be made annually by the school board and published with their report.
II. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a school district by a vote of the legislative body may authorize, indefinitely until specific rescission, the school district to retain year-end unassigned general funds in an amount not to exceed, in any fiscal year, 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year’s net assessment pursuant to RSA 198:5, for the purpose of having funds on hand to use as a revenue source for emergency expenditures and over-expenditures under RSA 32:11, or to be used as a revenue source to reduce the tax rate.
III. The legislative body of the city of Manchester, upon recommendation of the school committee, may authorize, indefinitely until specific rescission, the school district to retain year-end unassigned general funds.

32:11 Emergency Expenditures and Overexpenditures. – When an unusual circumstance arises during the year which makes it necessary to expend money in excess of an appropriation which may result in an overexpenditure of the total amount appropriated for all purposes at the meeting or when no appropriation has been made, the selectmen or village district commissioners, upon application to the commissioner of revenue administration or the school board upon application to the commissioner of education, may be given authority to make such expenditure, provided that:
I. Such application shall be made prior to the making of such expenditure. No such authority shall be granted until a majority of the budget committee, if any, has approved the application in writing. If there is no budget committee, the governing body shall hold a public hearing on the request, with notice as provided in RSA 91-A:2.
II. The commissioner of revenue administration or the commissioner of education may accept and approve an application after expenditure if caused by a sudden or unexpected emergency, in which case paragraph I shall not apply.

III. Neither the commissioner of revenue administration nor the commissioner of education shall approve such expenditure unless the governing body designates the source of revenue to be used. Neither commissioner shall have the authority to increase the town or district’s tax rate in order to fund such expenditure.


Filed under 2013 TRSD Warrant Articles, Budget Committee