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Troy officials not happy with court’s decisions on school funding formula appeals

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Monday, February 23, 2015

TROY — The verdict is in and at least one town selectman isn’t happy about it, but what comes next remains to be determined, he said.

Selectman Gideon L. Nadeau Sr. said this morning he’s disappointed the N.H. Supreme Court didn’t accept the town’s appeal involving a lawsuit local officials brought against the Monadnock Regional School District disputing the way payments are divided among the district’s six member towns.

Besides Troy, those towns are Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury and Swanzey.

The high court issued an order on Feb. 6 unanimously affirming Judge John C. Kissinger Jr.’s April 2014 ruling dismissing the case in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene.

Nadeau said this morning he doesn’t understand why the justices can’t understand what the state law says about the matter.

In March 2013, Monadnock voters approved a petition warrant article to change the formula towns follow in paying the school district to be based on 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation.

The formula had previously been calculated on 50 percent student enrollment and 50 percent town property values.

Troy selectmen have said that the formula change wasn’t approved in accordance with state law because it didn’t have school board support, and should be reversed.

The formula change has raised Troy’s tax rate significantly, and has put more of a burden on the taxpayers, Nadeau said.

When the formula change took effect on July 1, 2013, Troy’s payments to Monadnock increased 16.1 percent, from about $3.96 million in 2012-13 to roughly $4.6 million in 2013-14.

“Unfortunately, (the formula) can’t be changed for another three years,” Nadeau said.

He said he wouldn’t be surprised when those three years are up, if the next funding formula proposal comes from Troy.

The 2013 petition warrant article originated in Roxbury, where some residents and officials believed the town was being unfairly targeted by the 50/50 split.

Other attempts, some successful, some not, have been made to change the funding formula since the Monadnock school district formed in the early 1960s.

“We can’t keep going back and forth with each town,” Nadeau said. “In my opinion, the state needs to come up with some sort of formula to change how it funds schools. This is ridiculous.”

Efforts to reach selectmen Chairman William T. “Tom” Matson this morning were unsuccessful.

The N.H. Supreme Court’s decision not to accept Troy’s appeal came within weeks of it unanimously ruling the N.H. Board of Education was correct when it decided in November 2013 not to grant a declaratory judgment in Troy’s petition because the state board lacked jurisdiction. The petition asked the state board to overturn a school district vote from March 2013 to change the funding formula.

Following that ruling, Matson said he was disappointed the five justices based their decision on the timeliness of the town’s filing, and not the point of law that town officials said was violated.

With both supreme court appeals now out of play, Nadeau said he isn’t sure what the town’s next steps will be. He expects the situation will be a topic of discussion at the selectmen’s meeting today at 5 p.m. at Troy Town Hall.