School Withdrawal Committee Meeting Minutes – 7/24/19

 

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

Absent:  William Stahl

 

Chairman Mr. St.Pierre called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.  He noted that the meetings are recorded.  

 

Motion to approve the minutes of July, 10, 2019 meeting made by Mr. Levesque, second by Mr. Bushway.  All present vote in the affirmative.

 

Report of Subcommittees

 

Budget: Mr. Beam passed a handout providing a look at the potential budget for the remaining four towns in the SAU if the town of Charlestown withdraws.  The handout listed a comparison of FY 20 and 21 for each remaining town.  The supporting detail of this summary will be emailed to the committee members.  Included will be the adjusted ADM percentage for each remaining town, the number of students, and the tuition rate, per town.  This will be the impact of the six current methods on the four remaining towns.  

 ADM for the remaining four towns
 Number of students per town
 Tuition rate, per town
 Budget by location 
 Additional data 

 

The direct elementary expenses for FY 20 is $8,893,150.00 and increases to $9,071,013.00 in FY 21.  Expense numbers have 2% increase, as there is also a 2% increase in the projected Charlestown budget as well.  THe out of district tuition is based on 90% of the current number of Charlestown and Lempster 9-12 students tuitioning in.  

 

Method 1 breakdown includes approximately $275,000.00 that is for three new positions at the SAU, as recommended by district.  They are a new Assistant Superintendent, someone to assist the business office, and an additional support person for the Special Ed programs.  Mr. Dalessio asks why those three new positions will affect the remaining four towns?   Mrs. Henry explained that the SAU will still be supporting Charlestown.  All of the SAU costs will go up.  

 

 

All other methods reflect the change from five towns to four.  The method values will be spelled out in the supporting information.  Mr. Beam notes that many of the increases are due to current teacher and support staff contracts, plus the 2% increase built in.  

 

The direct expenses at the High School increase from  $9.3 to $9.9 million.  The increase is mainly benefits and payroll, plus the 2% built in increase.  The revenue is less Charlestown’s adequacy aid, but does include tuition.   For FY 2021, each remaining town assessment is increasing.  However, many expenses are going down as a result of Charlestown withdrawing.  

 

Educational Impact:  Mrs. Vogel advised that they have nothing new to report.  Mr. Dalessio feels that nothing has been answered.  He would like to have the question answered: “What is the educational impact of Charlestown withdrawing on the remaining four towns?”  He would like to see something in writing that answers that question and is not an opinion.    Mr. Emig feels that this question cannot be answered.  Mr. Dalessio asks, then, does the committee say that there will be no impact on the report?    Mrs. Henry feels the district will still be offering the same level of education and that will not change.  Mr. Dalessio appreciates that Mrs. Henry states this as fact.  The school board works hard to keep their quality of education and that won’t change.  Mrs. Vogel asks if there will be a change in what Charlestown is looking at for their curriculum?  Mr. Dalessio does not feel that cost is a factor in the education of Charlestown students.  Mr.Emig agreed that cost may be affected but not the quality of education.  Mrs. Vogel feels that limiting the funding will limit the quality of education IE: not having textbooks during difficult budget years.   Mr. Beam feels that consistency will need to be figured in — the quality of education in Charlestown will affect the high school for the children all coming together at that moment.  Mrs. Vogel notes the concern of the principals that the teachers of each school will have fewer resources to go to if different curriculums are used within the schools that feed into Fall Mountain.  Mrs Henry notes that the FM school board is not legally bound to take the Charlestown children if they feel the quality of Charlestowns education does not meet the quality of FM.  Mrs. Vogel and Mrs. Henry agree that they do not want to see this happen.

 

Building: Mrs. Henry spoke with  Ron Leclerc, the Business Analyst at the state level.  He  noted that there is no set formula for the disposition of assets, but most schools use ADM.  There is no formula for the state.  Mrs. Henry stated that it is whatever formula works for this committee. 

 

Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee:  Mr. Spilsbury of the Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee is present.  

 

Charlestown understands that the Withdrawal Committee work is a work in progress, and that we are in the early stages of the budget.  What we do not understand is the factors that drive the FY 21 budget in Charlestown to a recommended increase of $2.7 million.  We will ask Mr. Fenn what he feels are the drivers of the increase.

 

The first  handout is a small example what Charlestown is needing a further explanation of.  The first two budget items in question appear every year, but are not used.  The Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee contends that this practice should be scrutinized.  The under-utilized funds roll over into the general fund and become unassigned cash that can be used for any purpose.   According to Mrs. Henry, the amount of the first line is in the teacher contract every year, with a contractual obligation to pay.   Mrs. Henry believes this amount for Tuition Assistance is regularly used completely.  Mr. St.Pierre asked which years this line item was used, and for Mrs. Henry to bring this information to the next meeting.  Mr. Spilsbury appreciates the answers as Charlestown has been looking for them.  These entries are indicative of lines that get rolled into unassigned pool to be spent.  The next three line items are examples of wildly erratic numbers.  Mrs. Vogel states that they are special ed lines and do depend on the children in town.  Mr. Dalessio asks why the FY 19 is $86,000 budgeted for LEA, then $17,000 for FY 20, and then Charlestown FY 21 is listed as $495,000?   What makes Charlestown only in FY21 $495,000?     Mr. Dalessio clarifies that the question is how the budget line can go from $17,000 and $495,000?  The district is over budget on special ed according to Mrs. Henry — noting that new students are coming in to Charlestown for LEA and LEAP.  Mrs. Henry questions if the $495,000 is all special ed for Charlestown together. Mrs. Vogel advises waiting for Mr. Fenn.  

 

Mr. Spilsbury reiterated that this list is best put before Mr. Fenn for answers and is being presented for the Withdrawal Committee to view.  There are items that disappear in the budget, there are items that are deemed unnecessary, there are line items that contain assumptions, and there are line items that highlight the 2.5% increase that was included across the board even to items that would be fixed amounts.  It is indicative of a methodological problem that needs to be addressed.  The Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee will present these items to Mr. Fenn for clarification of the primary drivers of the increases.

 

Mr. Spilsbury notes for the committee that if the projected increase from FY 19 – FY 21 in Charlestown is $2.7 million and the remaining towns go from $20 million to $22.5 mill, it is indicating a 4 million increase in the combined budgets.  Mrs. Henry notes that revenues make the increase in the four town’s only $500,000.  It is clarified by Mrs. Vogel that the revenues are in the budget numbers.  

 

Mr. Spilsbury presented a draft, in the earliest stage, of a potential template for the  framework of what the Withdrawal Committee could present to the state.  It follows the pattern of the Goshen/Lempster agreement.   The handout was rejected by Mrs. Vogel and Mrs. Henry.  Mr. Spilsbury reiterated that the Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee did not intend to do the work of the Withdrawal Committee, it was merely handed out to be helpful and provide a template in response to being asked,  “What does Charlestown want”?  Charlestown has framed out in response to each of the rsa questions what it is that Charlestown would be proposing to do.

 

Point of Order from Mrs. Vogel.  Mrs. Vogel notes that Ms. Landry is confused by the names of the committees and feels unsure of what committee is sending her emails.  This document is adding to the confusion for Mrs. Vogel.   Mrs. Vogel would like a bulleted list of wants from Charlestown.  Mr.St.Pierre notes on the first note that Charlestown has a committee that is studying withdrawal as well, and he will make sure that the committee name is clearer for Ms. Landry.  On the second point, it is up to the committee to decide if they want to know what Charlestown wants?  Mrs. Vogel is adamant that she wants to know what Charlestown would like, but in the form of a bulleted list and not a template.  

Mr. Bushway also finds this report to be telling the committee what to do, as the committee has already received examples.  Mr. Spilsbury clarifies that the intent of Charlestown is not to write the agreement.  It is merely to help.  Mrs. Vogel wants the information in the document, but not in the form.  On page 3-6 of the template, Charlestown lists what we would like.  

Mrs. Henry would like to know numbers from Charlestown, not the information in the document.  

Mr. Dalessio notes for the minutes that this is an unsolicited document.  

Mr. Dustin does not have a problem with the document.  He notes that this is information, a list.  

Mrs. Vogel wants a list and not an “official” looking document.  

Jerry Henry of Langdon would like to see “Sample from Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee” written on the document.  All document copies were received back by the Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee to be marked clearly as unofficial documents.  

Mrs. Vogel asks Mr. Spilsbury to go over the information that was put forth without a handout to view.  

 

 This format is following the Goshen/Lempster format, we do not want any mystery about where it came from.
 Background pages are extremely incomplete, following only a series of steps.  The  Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee will present a list of the items we would put on those pages if it was a part of the report.
 Name, grade, and pre k as required by RSA 186 C:2 and the corollary of the FM district having the remaining four towns. 
 Charlestown proposes a 5 member school board in staggered terms.  All five filled in the first year, 2 for 3 years, 2 for 2 years, and 1 for 1 year.  FM would indicate what FM wants.  
 Method of apportioning the operating and capital expenses states that the Town of Charlestown will shoulder ALL Charlestown costs.  Remaining towns will operate the FM district.  
 Date of withdrawal of financial and educational responsibility is July 1, 2021 for both Charlestown and remaining district.
 Liability of remaining indebtedness contains a bracketed note that this will be addressed specifically at a later date.
 Plan for the education of all students in the withdrawing district and for the continuation of the education of the remaining students in the cooperative district.
 Charlestown will create a budget for K-8.  Charlestown will take responsibility for K-8 and remaining towns will be responsible for their own.  Indicates that Charlestown intends to tuition to FM.
 Charlestown will meet statutory obligations for PreK and special ed.  Mirror image statement for FM.
 Transportation.  Charlestown will meet the obligations for Charlestown.  FM will take care of its own.  
 Continuity plans.  
 SAU status.  No plans to withdraw the Charlestown School District from SAU 60 at this time.
 Any other matters not incompatible with the law.  
 Town of Charlestown will meet its contractual obligations.

 

Mr. Spilsbury presented a final document showing statistical data regarding Charlestown.  This could help everyone involved get a feel for the present climate in Charlestown.  This data is offered to the Withdrawal Committee solely to determine if they want to use it as potential appendices and supporting data for the plan.  Mr. Spilsbury notes that not a consistent, single story that can be drawn from any single document, and representatives from each town may draw their own conclusions.  In the Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee meeting, we determined what we would want to know about our town demographics in order to make decisions.

 

 

 NH 2018 property tax rates.  Charlestown is the second highest in the state overall, first in school tax rate. 
 Median Home values from NHES.NH.gov.  2000/2016/2019.  Charlestown values increase significantly from 2000 to 2016, then tailed off.  In comparison, some towns there has been an improvement, but not Charlestown or Langdon.
 Age demographics by town.  Median age is fairly similar among the five towns.  
 Income and Poverty levels by town.  Charlestown has the lowest median income.  Langdon is the highest.  
 Free Reduced lunch per town.  NCCS is the most consistently high.  
 Percentage of students with a disability, per school.  
 Comparison of FM Regional PreK-8 grade schools via Niche.com This report shows that Charlestown consistently rates low.  
 These are subjective, but they suggest that perceptions are that the Charlestown schools are weaker academically, despite what is going on at the district level.  

 

These statistics show that Charlestown has a clear challenge.  Some of the statistics highlight that the five towns are in the same pond and have a shared problem.   It is not our purpose to persuade or analyze, however, the statistics support that Charlestown has problems with poverty and education quality.  We don’t need to demonstrate that we are distinct among the towns in the FM district, but that we want to be able to get our arms around these problems.   The Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee contends that we think this will be addressed better by local control. 

 

Mr. St.Pierre asked what factors is adequacy aid based on?  Mrs. Henry replied that adequacy aid is based on ADM and value of property in a town, as well as certain demographics pertaining to individual needs of the student population.  Mr. St.Pierre advised that he recently attended a meeting of selectmen from NH with Governor Sununu — who discussed that adequacy aid was coming back to the town largely based on free/reduced lunch.  Mrs. Henry noted a whole line of items that amend the amount received, such as English as a Second Language, in addition to Free and Reduced Lunch.

 

Mr. Dalessio asked if Charlestown’s property value is increasing or decreasing?  Mr. Spilsbury advised that the total valuation of Charlestown’s Grand List has declined since the last revaluation of 2016.

 

Mr. Beam asks when the Charlestown Committee will provide a budget?  Mr. Spilsbury advised that the Charlestown Withdrawal Advisory Committee has some questions to be answered by Mr. Fenn, but hopes to put something before the Withdrawal Committee in August.

 

Mrs. Henry asks how the Charlestown School Study Committee Warrant placed a warrant article on the agenda?  Didn’t they have a budget already?  Mr. Spilsbury clarified the question, “Did Charlestown’s committee prepare a budget before submitting to the Charlestown voters the question of whether to instigate a withdrawal study”?  No, according to Mr. Spilsbury.  It is the mission of this committee.  

 

Public Comment: Mrs. Trina Dearborn, Charlestown. In response to Mrs. Henry,  commented that the Charlestown Withdrawal committee tried to put together a budget.  No answers could be found.  The article was placed on the warrant because the study needed to be done to get the answers.

 

Mrs. Alissa Bascom, Charlestown, commented that even without a budget handed out to the people of Charlestown, the feeling in Charlestown is that things are  so broken the voters are willing to try anything.  They are struggling.  They have put their  trust in this Withdrawal Committee to help, to let them make choices on their own.  They have voted for that.

 

Mr. Dalessio would like to know what the exact question that will be voted on by the committee?  Mr. Dalessio would like this emailed out.  Mr. Spilsbury offers that other towns have framed it as:

 

“At its meeting on x date, a quorum being present, the withdrawal study committee determined by a vote of_____yes, ____no,_____abstentions, that withdrawal of Charlestown from the Fall Mountain Regional School District  is both suitable and feasible.”

 

Mrs. Henry wants to make sure that it is looked at from both perspectives, Charlestown and the remaining four towns.  Mr. Bushway clarified that in RSA 195, section 2, it says that the committee shall report its findings to the State Board of Education, and the committee shall submit a report to the School Board whether the withdrawal of one, or more, is to  “recommend, not recommended or more time needed.”  Mr. Bushway reads the RSA that if this committee recommends or does not recommend.  Mr. Dalessio notes that anything can be feasible.  

 

Mrs. Henry will ask a contact at the state what the vote needs to be on.  She will also be emailing out the estimated 2020 adequacy aid.

 

Mr. St.Pierre asked for any other business?  Seeing none, 

 

Motion to Adjourn by Mrs. Henry, second by Mrs. Vogel. All vote in the affirmative.  Meeting is adjourned at 7:31 pm.

 

The next meeting of the School Withdrawal Committee is Wednesday, August 14, 2019.  6PM in the FMRHS Library.

 

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Alissa Bascom

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