Troy seeks to study leaving Monadnock school district – Keene Sentinel 1-5-2014

Troy seeks to study leaving Monadnock school district

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

TROY — A group of Troy residents, including three town officials, have backed a petition warrant article that, if approved, would put the Monadnock Regional School District’s second-largest community on a path to study leaving the district.

If the article passes at Troy’s town meeting in March, it would direct the Monadnock Regional School Board to study the possibility of Troy leaving the district. At the same time, the town would be authorized to form a committee to study Troy’s education options and craft a report, in accordance with state law.

Twenty-six of the town’s roughly 2,145 residents have signed the petition article, submitted Tuesday, including two of the three Troy selectmen, Chairman Gideon L. Nadeau Sr. and William T. Matson, and budget committee member Jon Collins.

Of the two towns that have already left Monadnock, Surry in 2008 and Sullivan in 2013, both communities first formed committees to study their education options.

Once the committees made their recommendations to withdraw, Sullivan and Surry voters approved town meeting warrant articles to ask the Monadnock Regional School Board to form withdrawal committees.

The committees consisted of one school board representative and one selectman from each of the district’s member towns.

Besides Troy, Monadnock covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury and Swanzey.

The petition warrant article is the latest turn of events in a saga that has hung over the Monadnock school district in recent months.

In November, the Troy Board of Selectmen filed a petition with the N.H. Department of Education asking it to overrule voter approval of a petition warrant article to change the way costs are divvied up among the district’s member towns. Voters approved the article at Monadnock’s annual meeting in March 2013.

The petition article sought to change the formula towns follow to determine how much they owe the district, from being based on 50 percent student enrollment and 50 percent town property valuation. The new formula, which is based on 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation, took effect July 1.

The change caused Troy’s payment to the school district to jump 16.1 percent — the most of Monadnock’s six member towns — and the local education portion of its tax rate to rise from $11.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation in 2012 to $20.32 in 2013.

The N.H. Department of Education has since denied Troy’s request, and a subsequent motion from the town for a rehearing.

Troy selectmen also tried unsuccessfully to get the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration to recalculate the town’s 2013 tax rate of $36.26 per $1,000 assessed valuation, and were turned down for a loan of $953,668 from the N.H. Executive Council to pay the town’s expenses through Jan. 31, 2014.

Town officials said at the time the Troy wasn’t going bankrupt, but had a cash-flow issue. Once the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration upheld the town’s 2013 tax rate, the town sent out tax bills to property owners.

In early December, Troy filed a lawsuit in Cheshire County Superior Court against the Monadnock Regional School District.

In the complaint, Troy officials said the petition warrant article to change the formula didn’t comply with state law because it wasn’t recommended or backed by the Monadnock Regional School Board.

According to state law, the portion each town pays to a cooperative school district can either be based on 100 percent property valuation, or 50 percent valuation and 50 percent student enrollment. The school board would have to recommend any other formula, the law states.

The school board didn’t back the warrant article, voting in January 2013 to take no action on it.

The case remains pending in Cheshire County Superior Court, as well as two district towns’ motions to intervene in the suit.

Roxbury seeks to join Monadnock in the lawsuit, while Swanzey seeks to side with Troy. Swanzey’s payment to the school district also increased with the formula change.

Word of Troy’s petition caught Troy’s two school board representatives, Richard H. Thackston 3rd and Lisa Steadman, by surprise.

Both said Tuesday they believed Troy withdrawing from Monadnock is a bad idea.

“The question is, can Troy run a school itself in which it would cost less money than belonging to Monadnock. I don’t believe it can,” Thackston said in a phone interview.

While Troy has a right to study withdrawal, it makes no sense that a community that is already upset over having to pay for education based on a calculation of 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation would be happy paying 100 percent of school costs, he said.

Steadman said she first learned of the petition at the school board meeting Tuesday night, and wished those who signed the document had talked to her about it.

“It’s just not a good idea,” she said.

Monadnock Business Administrator Jane E. Fortson didn’t have concrete numbers, but said Tuesday afternoon that if Troy did go out on its own, it would cost the town “significantly more than what they pay into the district” now.

Because of those potential costs, and Troy having to uproot its students if it left, school board Chairwoman Patricia Bauries of Swanzey said it was foolish of Troy to look at studying withdrawal from Monadnock.