TOWN OF CHARLESTOWN School Withdrawal Committee Meeting Minutes – 4/30/19

In keeping with The Walpolean Mission of “Keeping the community up to date on community topics”, I have copied these minutes from the Fall Mountain School District website. There you will also see an Articles of Agreement Committee Invitation Letter. If it is easier, I also have a link on the right hand side of the Walpolean home page if you click on FALL MOUNTAIN REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT.

This is in case the Selectboard, Planning Board and Zoning Board Minutes aren’t enough reading for the weekend! – Lil

Present: Albert St.Pierre; Scott Bushway; Lucien Beam; Alan Dustin; Steven Dalessio; Joseph Levesque; Mary Henry; Frank Emig; William Stahl; Sarah Vogel

Others Present: Gabriel St.Pierre; Michael Herrington, School Board Chairman; John Murray; Steven Neill; Trina Dearborn; Terry Spilsbury; Scott Wade; Rebecca Sethi

Meeting called to order at 5:35 pm.

First order to elect Chair, Vice Chairperson.

Albert St.Pierre nominated for Chair by Frank Emig.  Second by Alan Dustin. William Stahl nominated Mary Henry.  Second by Frank Emig. Vote by show of hands. Three for Mary Henry, Five for Albert St.Pierre.  

Mary Henry nominated for Vice Chair by Albert St.Pierre.  Second by Frank Emig. All in favor.

Alissa Bascom nominated as recording secretary by William Stahl, seconded by Alan Dustin.  All in favor.

Introductions

Packets handed out by Mr. St.Pierre.  Included in packet is:

  • Letter of invitation to committee

  • Withdrawal Committee Information from SAU 60 website

  • Contact info for members

  • Original report of 1964 forming of district

  • Report of Charlestown School Study Committee

  • Tax Rates for NH 2018

  • Condensed version of 2018 area tax rates — district towns and some surrounding towns

  • Copy of votes from FM Ballot

  • Lempster tuition agreement with SAU 60

  • 2019 School District Annual Report

Committee would like to clarify what RSA 195:25 involves.  Mr. Stahl noted for committee that 195:25 states committee must have a plan to state by November 1, 2019.  The committee shall report its findings to the state Board of Education. The report shall indicate whether the withdrawal of one or more towns from the cooperative school district is recommended, not recommended, or the committee need additional time.

If the committee finds that they do not recommend withdrawal, the committee is dissolved.  If the committee finds that the withdrawal of one or more towns from the cooperative school district is recommended, the committee shall develop a withdrawal plan in accordance with RSA 195:26. The plan shall be submitted to the state board of education for the education of students in the the co-operative district and for the students of the withdrawing district, no later than November 1.

Included in the withdrawal plan in accordance with RSA 195:26, is specific guidelines for responsibilities of withdrawing district listed in RSA 195:27 (each withdrawing district’s responsibilities to the cooperative district for capital costs and outstanding debts) and RSA 195:28 (Cooperative district gives withdrawing district(s) current buildings and property minus the capital costs and outstanding debts layed out in RSA 195:27).

If the state board approves the withdrawal plan, whether submitted by the committee or by minority report, the plan shall be submitted to the voters of the cooperative school district in accordance with RSA 195:29.

Date of withdrawal, per RSA 195:30 — 1 year after vote at town meeting.  If withdrawal vote is brought before the towns in March, 2020 and passes, then July 1, 2021 will be the earliest date of withdrawal.  

It is noted for the committee by Mr. Dalessio that it is any or all towns that could look at the feasibility of withdrawing.  Not only Charlestown. Withdrawing town(s) would stay in SAU 60, unless additional RSA 194-C:2 is enacted.

Questions to be answered by the committee:

  • What is the real cost to run a school?  

  • What does feasibility mean?

  • What do we need to make a decision?  

  • How do we put a plan together within 180 days?

Mr. St.Pierre feels that budget for each town has been published by the school board.  He referenced page 31 and 32 of annual report. Each town has the amount of money apportioned to them, and that is the budget they have to work with.  Ms. Henry acknowledges that the school board has this information. There are over 5800 codes and they can be placed in each town to determine cost.

Mr. Dalessio asked if we can feasibly educate our children if we separate.  What is the real cost of educating a child?

The committee would like to ask the following questions to Jim Fenn.  Mr. Stahl will invite Mr. Fenn to all future meetings of the Withdrawal Study Committee.  

Questions for Mr. Fenn:

  1. How much does it cost to educate a single student?  The actual, per pupil cost.

  2. How many students are in the high school, physically, from each town?

  3. How will costs go up or down for withdrawing district(s) and remaining district(s)?

  4. How are costs apportioned out to each town and to the high school?

  5. How are surplus dollars distributed out to towns at the end of the fiscal year?

  6. What is the indebtedness of school district?

  7. What is each town responsible for in regards to indebtedness.  Is there a formula? What is the impact to each town?

  8. What is cost to reacquire properties from the co-op for withdrawing town(s)?

  9. How is money from state adequacy aid directly affecting town it is apportioned for?

John Murray from Charlestown acknowledged that the business of determining cost of educating students is confusing.  Budget is driven by salary of teachers — more teachers, more money it costs to run. Is class size something to consider when determining feasibility of withdrawal? Mr. St.Pierre voiced that this committee does not want to put together a budget.

Mr. St.Pierre acknowledged that Charlestown cannot out vote other towns for what is best for town of Charlestown.  Charlestown taxpayers vote down budget and monetary articles because they cannot afford any more increases. They are already shouldering the highest school tax burden in the state.  Charlestown needs a balance between what we do for education and for our tax payers. The board in Charlestown needs to be able to budget for both. If the School District budget is deemed proportionate, what does Charlestown do?  Charlestown does not want to be part of a state lawsuit, problem is with our own district.

Mr. Bushway stated that a plan is needed to attack the feasibility question.  The charge of this committee is to determine if a district can withdraw. How do we approach the question of feasibility of a district (or districts) withdrawing with an educated decision?

Mr. Beam brought forth copies of withdrawal studies from Newport, Monroe, and Goshen/Lempster.  All of these reports, and more, are available on the website of the State of NH Board of Education, www.education.nh.gov.  Search withdrawal, many town withdrawal studies are there.  

Highlight of these three studies — some 65 pages long, is that in all three studies, education does not enter into the picture.  All focus is on the impact of town finances only. These district reports include feasibility of withdrawal from a financial standpoint and what the structure of the district schools is, now that they have withdrawn from their co-operative.  The reports focus on:

  • Percentages of SAU and allocations for personnel.

  • Financial aid from state

  • Tuition costs

  • Liability of assets currently within town.

  • Fiscal impact to district itself, what is impact on district vs town.

  • Consultations with DOE

This committee needs to:

  • Understand what cost to each town

  • Know what is the cost to quality of education

  • Relook at articles of agreement

Mr. Beam asked if this committee is set, or whether other townspeople could be invited to contribute to the meeting.  Per the group, others could be invited to speak to certain issues/questions.

Terry Spilsbury, Charlestown, offered that the committee must define and create a portrait of what the withdrawal looks like.  

Ms. Vogel suggested that perhaps the group break into subcommittees for the purpose of bringing information back to discuss.  Subcommittees could bring in other sources as speakers.

  • Interview other districts who have been through this process, specifically co-operative districts.

  • Educational impact

  • Financial impact

  • Final impact

Future meeting dates set for Wednesday, May 22 and May 29th, 2019, 5:30 pm, FMRHS library.  

Meeting adjourned 6:52 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Alissa Bascom

(Note:  These are unapproved Minutes. Corrections, if necessary, will be found in the Minutes of the May 22, 2019 meeting.)

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