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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A Reply to Karen Yasenka

In the October 26, 2017 edition of the TriTown Times, Hampstead School Board Chairman, Karen Yasenka, had this to say about three Timberlane School Board members, myself included:

“I find it deeply concerning that three Timberlane board members voted against a code of ethics that simply and clearly defines the way we do business as a board and how we interact with each other. It’s especially concerning to me that members of the leadership team at Timberlane have such little regard for ethical behavior. Brian Boyle representing Atkinson, chair of the Timberlane Board, Dr. Kim Farah representing Danville, vice-chair of the Timberlane Board and Donna Green representing Sandown, chair of the Timberlane Policy Committee voted against conducting business in an ethical manner. As leaders of public education and fiduciaries of public funds, ethical behavior on the part of all board members is of the utmost importance. One can only wonder why someone is reluctant to adopt a code that sets a standard for what is considered ethical behavior. It’s concerning, but not necessarily surprising. This behavior is typical of rogue board members who often refuse to support majority decisions of the board and who work both openly and subversively to disrupt and undermine board authority when it conflicts with their own interests and preferences. In general, rogue members do not subscribe to a code of ethics, instead they favor whatever actions further the cause at hand on their personal agenda. The real danger here is that a dysfunctional board ultimately impacts student achievement. The negative climate created by chaotic board meetings is not confined to the board room, but permeates the entire district inclusive of student classrooms. Given today’s political environment where anything goes, it’s time to stand up against actions that are not in the best interest of the common good. Voting against ethical behavior is certainly not in the best interest of conducting board business, nor is it in the best interest of the district’s personnel or students. And it is short-sighted to think it is in the best interest of the towns we serve.”

Three Timberlane board members voted against the proposed SAU Code of Ethics because it contained the following statement:  “Final board actions will be supported by all members of the board.  Members will take no private action that will compromise the board or administration and refrain from private actions which would undermine or compromise official board action.”

What Mrs. Yasenka wants is for elected officials to join hands and sing Kumbaya at the end of every meeting. Anything less is failing to act ethically and going “rogue.”  Why, my very blog entry is a prime example of going ‘rogue,  refusing to support majority decisions of the board and working openly and subversively to disrupt and undermine board authority when it conflicts with my own interests and preferences.’ Oddly enough, my own interests and preferences are to align my actions and those of all elected boards with the state and federal Constitutions.  This provision in the “Code of Ethics” is clearly unconstitutional and violates the free speech rights of elected officials. Mrs. Yasenka wouldn’t know a First Amendment Right if it rolled off a lobotomy table and hit her on the foot.

It is an outlandish and dangerous notion that those who wish to protect their free speech rights are “rogue” and somehow deleteriously affecting student achievement.  The next step is burning dissidents at the stake.

Ironically, the Code of Ethics also says this:

“Encourage and respect the free expression of opinions by fellow board members and participate in board discussions in an open, honest, and respectful manner, honoring differences of opinion or perspective. Final board actions will be supported by all members of the board.”

Mrs. Yasenka wrote the Code of Ethics with two others.  Did she just not read the part about honoring differences of opinion?  Who, by this policy, is acting unethically now?

The truth of the matter is that Mrs. Yasenka and her hand-holding, singing band of followers are using an unconstitutional so called “Code of Ethics” to silence dissenting board members and the voters for whom they speak.  The SAU board majority is doing what they accuse me of, namely, “openly and subversively [disrupting and undermining] board authority when it conflicts with their own interests and preferences.”  There is no greater harm to a board’s moral authority than taking unconstitutional action.

While Mrs. Yasenka is busy calling those who disagree with her, “unethical,” let’s take a look at Mrs. Yasenka’s own record of moral probity.  She is perfectly happy with abusing the Hampstead board’s authority to persecute a man who effectively and repeatedly thwarts their bond ambitions.  Hampstead local treasure, Mr. Mesa-Tejada, has a completely unfounded No Trespass order against him courtesy of the Hampstead Board.

This SAU Code of Ethics is scheduled to be given final approval on Nov. 15. Code of Ethics” 

 

 

 

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Timberlane Taxes Skyrocket… Again

When you Google “management,” this definition pops up:  “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.”

I’ll let you judge if Timberlane’s budget and our associated taxes are being “controlled.”

New Hampshire’s Department of Revenue has released Timberlane’s cooperative town apportionment for 2017.  This document sets out the amount of money each town in our cooperative school district must pay to Timberlane.  Comparing the amount of money paid last year to what must be paid this year, you can determine the school tax increase for each town.

Timberlane School Tax Increase 2017:

Atkinson 4.7%
Danville 8.5%
Plaistow 7.7%
Sandown 9.3%

(Thanks to Arthur Green for these calculations.)

It’s important to note that this is not the same as the increase in each town’s tax rate.  Many factors affect the town tax rate.  Timberlane’s budget is what affects the apportionment.

Timberlane’s budget committee hasn’t a clue about the tax impact of the budgets they approve.  Ask them at Deliberative.  No idea.  Neither does the school board.  Not even on the radar.  When the default budget is manipulated to give you no choice, who cares? Heads we win, tails you lose.

I believe some members of the board are committed this year to delivering an honest default budget.  If this doesn’t happen, the district will have no spending restraints whatsoever.

 

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