Troy to argue cases of Monadnock funding formula before N.H. Supreme Court

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 12:00 pm

SWANZEY CENTER — Call it a second chance and then some for the town of Troy.

Troy officials will have two opportunities to argue before the N.H. Supreme Court why they believe the formula that determines how much member towns pay to the Monadnock Regional School District is illegal.

At last year’s school district meeting, voters approved changing the formula to be based on 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation. The formula had been based on 50 percent student enrollment and 50 percent town property valuation.

The new formula made Troy’s payments jump the most of any of the district’s six towns, and prompted officials in town to take action. They petitioned the state Board of Education to reverse the vote, and they filed suit against the district.

But Troy struck out in both attempts.

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

In April, a Cheshire County Superior Court judge dismissed the Monadnock suit. Before that, in November 2013, the N.H. Board of Education said it lacked the authority to act, and then declined to rehear the case.

So the town appealed the two cases to the state’s highest court, and won the right to argue before the Supreme Court on both. No hearing dates have been scheduled yet.

The Supreme Court accepted the case against the N.H. Board of Education on April 15, and the one against Monadnock on June 23.

The new school 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’s unclear whether the town of Roxbury, which is one of the intervenors in the lower court proceedings, will also get involved in the cases at the Supreme Court level. The other intervenor is Swanzey.

Swanzey selectmen have opted to take no action in the matter, board Chairman Kenneth P. Colby Jr. said this morning.

He didn’t say specifically what was behind the board’s decision other than there was very little discussion about it.

Troy officials have said the school funding formula change wasn’t approved legally because the school board didn’t support it.

According to state law, the portion each town pays to a cooperative school district can be based either 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 Monadnock Regional School Board voted in January 2013 to take no action on the petition warrant article about the formula change.

Troy officials didn’t sue Monadnock over the funding formula change until December 2013, roughly nine months after the March 2013 vote and about five months after the N.H. Board of Education certified the vote in July 2013 as being lawfully adopted.

About eight months after the vote, in November 2013, Troy selectmen filed a petition with the state Board of Education asking it to overrule Monadnock voters’ approval of the warrant article to change the funding formula.

The state board issued a ruling soon after saying it lacked the authority to grant the request.

Troy selectmen filed a request for a rehearing, which the state board denied in January. Troy officials then appealed the Board of Education ruling to the N.H. Supreme Court in February.