Troy dealt final blow in challenge of Monadnock district funding formula
By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2015
SWANZEY CENTER — Troy has used up its two lifelines to protest a change in the Monadnock Regional School District funding formula.
And the district’s proposed support staff contract continues to be a sore subject with the school board.
Interim Superintendent Keith M. Pfeifer told board members at their Tuesday meeting that the N.H. Supreme Court didn’t accept Troy’s appeal in a lawsuit it brought against the district about the way payments are divided among the six towns.
Monadnock covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy.
The high court issued an order on Feb. 6, saying the justices unanimously affirmed Judge John C. Kissinger Jr.’s April 2014 ruling dismissing the case in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene.
Monadnock’s attorney, James A. O’Shaughnessy, said this morning that with the high court’s decision, “the matter is closed as all of Troy’s claims have been dismissed.”
The appeal was the second of two brought by Troy officials that stemmed from a petition warrant article voters approved at the school district’s annual meeting in March 2013. In the first appeal, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against the town.
The 2013 warrant article sought to change the funding formula Monadnock’s member towns follow when paying the school district, to be based on 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation.
Previously, the formula had been calculated on 50 percent student enrollment and 50 percent town property values.
The new funding formula took effect July 1, 2013, and caused Troy’s payments to Monadnock to increase 16.1 percent, from about $3.96 million in 2012-13 to roughly $4.6 million in 2013-14.
It also contributed to a steep increase in the local education portion of the town’s tax rate. Troy, which is considered one of Monadnock’s economically poorer towns, has had the highest 2013 and 2014 tax rates in the state of New Hampshire.
In late 2013, Troy officials took Monadnock to court over the change in the school funding formula and appealed to the N.H. Board of Education, saying the formula voters approved in 2013 didn’t comply with state law because it didn’t have the backing of the Monadnock school board.
Troy officials asked both the court and the state board to reverse the outcome of the vote to change the school funding formula.
In January, the N.H. Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Troy’s appeal of the board of education’s decision from November 2013.
The suit against the Monadnock board began in Cheshire County Superior Court and was dismissed before Troy appealed it to the N.H. Supreme Court.
Despite the board’s approval last month of a contract with the Monadnock Educational Support Staff Association, debate on the agreement continued Tuesday.
The union has more than 100 members and includes custodians, maintenance employees, secretaries, administrative assistants and paraprofessionals.
The three-year contract, if approved by voters at the March’s annual meeting, is projected to cost Monadnock an additional $55,208 in its first year, $13,853 more in its second year, and $10,884 more in its third year.
In exchange, union members would be required to pay more for their health insurance.
The school board approved the contract in a controversial vote during an emergency meeting on Jan. 12. Three board members walked out during that meeting in protest, saying they weren’t given enough time to study the contract deal.
Two of those members, Vice Chairman James I. Carnie of Richmond and Patricia Bauries of Swanzey, have publicly spoken against the contract and its last-minute approval.
On Tuesday night, Carnie, who was filling in as board chairman, demanded school officials produce certain documents related to contract negotiations before the next board meeting in two weeks. Those documents included signed tentative agreements and the final signed contract.
He said he has questions about the legality of the contract.
“I believe the page 36 in the contract that we (approved) is different than the page 36, which is in this contract, which we were given in our packet” for Tuesday’s board meeting. “I have a real problem with that in terms of legality,” he said.
Board member Richard H. Thackston 3rd of Troy, who was on the negotiating committee, said he questioned if some of the paperwork is still there, but would check with O’Shaughnessy.
Thackston then asked Carnie if he was questioning whether the contract, which the school board signed off on and which is on the ballot, existed.
He also accused Carnie of trying to find the contract defective on a technicality because he didn’t like the agreement.
Carnie said he made his request for the documents under the state’s Right-to-Know law, and according to the law, he doesn’t have to say why he’s requesting the documents.
“I didn’t agree with contract, the timing, and the way the negotiating committee dealt with it,” he said.
The board also discussed whether budget committee member Cornelius F. “Neil” Moriarty of Richmond should be allowed to continue as chairman of the superintendent search committee, since he submitted a petition warrant article asking Richmond voters if the town should study withdrawing from the Monadnock district.
Board member Elizabeth G. “Betty” Tatro of Swanzey made a motion on the matter, saying she had heard from constituents who were concerned that Moriarty continuing to serve as chairman of the committee would be a conflict of interest. The board voted against the motion, in a weighted vote of 7.179-1.121.