This is the third revision that has been sent to the State Board of Education. In the conversion from a pdf. File to a Word document, some of the formatting was inadvertently lost as were the Appendix documents. If you would like to see them, send me an email and I will forward a digital copy to you. – Lil
Report of the Withdrawal Study Committee
Studying the Withdrawal of the
Town of Charlestown
Fall Mountain Regional School District
Pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 195:25
Third Revised Version
For the NH Board of Education Hearing on January 9, 2020
To:The NH State Board of Education
From:Fall Mountain Regional School District Withdrawal Study Committee
RE:School Withdrawal Plan
In Favor Opposed
Alan F. Dustin_________________date_____ Mary Henry__________________date______
Alstead Select Board Member Langdon School Board Representative
Joseph A. Levesque_____________date____ Francis C. Emig, Jr.________________date____
Alstead School Board Representative Acworth Select Board Member
Albert A. St.Pierre_______________date____ Sarah Vogel____________________date______
Charlestown Select Board Member Acworth School Board Representative
Scott Bushway_________________date____ William K. Stahl________________date_______
Charlestown School Board Representative Walpole School Board Representative
Steven J. Dalessio______________date_______
Walpole Select Board Member
Lucien Joseph Beam____________date_______
Langdon Select Board Member
The towns of Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Langdon, and Walpole are rural communities located in Sullivan or Cheshire Counties, in southwestern New Hampshire. Each of these towns has a long history, having been incorporated in 1772, 1763, 1753, 1787 and 1752 respectively.
In 2017, Charlestown had a population of 5004 people. (696 people aged 5-19) and the other four towns have a combined population of 8741 people (1256 aged 5-19). Charlestown’s per capita income is $25,147, with a median household income of $50,297 and 2.1% unemployment. The other four town’s per capita income is $33,937.25, with a median household income of $66,997.75 and 2.275% unemployment.
The State Board of Education authorized the Charlestown School District and the districts of Acworth, Alstead, Langdon and Walpole to organize the Fall Mountain Regional School District pursuant to the provisions of [Chapter 199 of the Law of New Hampshire of 1947]. At a special meeting held on February 11, 1964, the five districts voted to establish the Fall Mountain Regional School District with an effective date of operating responsibility of July 1, 1966.
In 1976, a group of Charlestown residents, chaired by Oscar Makinen, met to discuss the merits of Charlestown in the Fall Mountain Regional School District and its effect on the people of Charlestown.
In January, 1984, a study was done locally to study the makeup of the district.
In 1985, Charlestown voters called for a withdrawal study to be done. The Select Board of Charlestown hired Mason & Rich Professional Association and Fleek & Lewis Architects to conduct the analysis. The study resulted in Charlestown voting to invoke RSA 195.
In 1986, as a result of the Charlestown vote to invoke RSA 195:25, the Fall Mountain Regional School Board appropriated $15,000 to hire the Center of Educational Field Services (CEFS), led by Dr. Richard Goodman and Dean Michener. Upon completion of the study, it was determined that Charlestown would be able to withdraw from the five town cooperative at no additional cost. The four remaining towns voted, by a vote of 12 – 3, to maintain the status quo. The opportunity to vote on withdrawal did not make it to the voters.
In 1988, an article was placed on the warrant to change the cost allocation formulas. This was voted down at school meeting.
In 1989, another article was placed on the school warrant to change the cost allocation formulas. Again, this was voted down at school meeting.
In 1998, Bill Wheeler, of TRACE, completed a study found that determined that Charlestown taxpayers were overpaying relative to services received.
In 2002, a district-wide vote approved a change in the formulas. The result of that decision is the incredibly complicated set of formulas with which we live today.
In 2015, Charlestown Selectmen advanced a motion to change the district school funding to a 50% ADM / 50% Equalized Valuation formula. District-wide, the resulting vote was 913 YES, 1970 NO, or 68% to 31% opposed. However, Charlestown voters voted 805 YES to 294 NO, or 73% in favor. Interestingly, 88% of all yes votes came from Charlestown voters, while 85% of all no votes came from the other four towns.
In addition to direct challenges to the Articles of Agreement and the cost allocation formulas, Charlestown voters have expressed their frustration at Fall Mountain School Board budgetary proposals by repeatedly and resoundingly voting against annual budgets that have proposed increases running well in excess of inflation or increased cost of living rates. Charlestown voters have also attended the annual deliberative sessions in substantial numbers to vote against proposed budget increases and force the default budget to be advanced.
Most recently, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the Town of Charlestown at its annual Town Meeting elections, passed Article 8: To see if the Town will vote to direct the School Board of Fall Mountain Regional School District to conduct a study of the feasibility and suitability of the withdrawal of the Town of Charlestown from the School District as set forth in RSA 195:25 (Ballot Vote Required). This vote passed 617 for and 248 against, representing an approval rate of 71% of Charlestown voters.
In March of 2019, a letter was sent to the School Board of Fall Mountain Regional School District notifying the board that Charlestown voters voted to invoke RSA 195:25. The FMRSD commenced a Withdrawal Study Committee. The initial meeting was held on April 30, 2019, where the guidelines for a Withdrawal Study and the procedure for adding committee members were outlined.
Twice monthly meetings were held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of May, June, July, August, and September, and each Wednesday in October until the plan was complete.
Data collected by the Withdrawal Study Committee to assist them in determining the feasibility of the withdrawal is included below.
Per Section RSA 195:26
195:26 Withdrawal Plan — A plan for the withdrawal of a member of district cooperative shall include the following:
The name of the withdrawing district shall be the Charlestown School District. This district shall oversee and provide for the children residing in the Town of Charlestown for grades Kindergarten through grade 12 and as required by RSA 186-C.
The remaining district, the Fall Mountain Regional School District, shall oversee and provide for the children residing in the towns of Acworth, Alstead, Langdon, and Walpole for grades Kindergarten through grade 12 and as required by RSA 186-C.
Article 2 of the Fall Mountain Regional School District Articles of Agreement sets forth the number, composition, method of selection, and terms of office for the Fall Mountain Regional School Board. Per the Articles of Agreement, the Fall Mountain Regional School Board is currently comprised of 7 members as follows:
Acworth 1 member elected every three years
Alstead 1 member elected every three years
Charlestown 1 member elected every three years
Langdon 1 member elected every three years
Walpole 1 member elected every three years
At Large 2 members elected every three years
The members of the School Board are elected for staggered terms of three years and until their successors are chosen and qualified.
Following withdrawal, the Charlestown School Board shall be the governing entity of the Charlestown School District and shall be comprised of 5 members, elected at large by the voters of the Town of Charlestown for three-year staggered terms.
In the first year of the Charlestown school board elections, 2 positions shall be for 3-year terms, 2 positions shall be for 2-year terms and 1 position shall be for a 1-year term.
Following withdrawal, the number, compositions, method of selection and terms of office for the Fall Mountain Regional School Board will continue to be governed by the Articles of Agreement. The ongoing board members from the remaining towns would comprise the Fall Mountain Regional School Board. RSA 195:18 III (b) provides that a cooperative school board shall consist of an odd number of members, not more than 15 for terms not exceeding 3 years. While the Withdrawal Committee does not believe it is within its authority to dictate the number, composition, method of selection, and terms of office for the Fall Mountain School Board following the withdrawal of Charlestown, particularly when the process is also governed by the Articles of Agreement, absent an amendment to the Articles of Agreement, the most logical and legally compliant default composition of the School Board would be as follows:
Acworth 1 member elected every three years
Alstead1 member elected every three years
Langdon1 member elected every three years
Walpole1 member elected every three years
At Large1 member elected every three years
This composition would result in a 5 member School Board, with a member from each town and one at-large member. This composition complies with state laws and would be the obvious default composition absent an amendment of the Articles of Agreement.
The Town of Charlestown will assume all costs for operating the Charlestown School District.
The Towns of Acworth, Alstead, Langdon, and Walpole will assume all costs for operating the Fall Mountain Regional School District. Unless the Articles of Agreement are amended by the School District, the apportionment formula will remain the same for the remaining towns with a prorated adjustment made to the formula to reflect the withdrawal of Charlestown as a member of the cooperative.
In fact, the FY20 & FY21 budget projection documents prepared by the Fall Mountain School District’s Chief Financial Officer (attached hereto — Appendix A.) to demonstrate the possible costs following withdrawal were calculated based on an apportionment formula that was modified without Charlestown in the District, on a prorated basis. The District’s CFO has prepared a summary (see attachment — Appendix B.) of the results of re-apportioning following Charlestown’s withdrawal using this methodology, showing (in the upper half) the revised allocation percentages under each methodology by town, and showing (in the lower half) the resulting dollar values derived from those new percentages. Use of this prorated formula by the District’s administrators not only demonstrates that the apportionment of all costs can be proportionally allocated after Charlestown withdraws in accordance with the current formula, but it also demonstrates that such a modification of the formula is the most logical and legally compliant default apportionment formula.
The Fall Mountain legislative body would have ample opportunity to propose and vote on an amendment to it’s apportionment formula; however, absent such an amendment and for reasons explained in detail above, the default would be an apportionment formula that remains the same with a prorated adjustment to account for the elimination of Charlestown’s share upon withdrawal.
As of July 1, 2021, the Charlestown School District will be responsible for the education of all Charlestown students.
As of July 1, 2021, the Fall Mountain School District will be responsible for the education of all Acworth, Alstead, Langdon, and Walpole students.
The Charlestown School District will assume it’s share of the outstanding indebtedness associated with two past projects.
Charlestown will assume the outstanding bond payments related to the 2006 renovations at the Charlestown Primary School, as follows:
FY 2021-22. $115,175.00
FY 2022-23. $110,900.00
FY 2023-24. $106,562.50
The following schedule of payments represents the Charlestown School District’s pro rata share of the Energy Project initiated in 2014 as it pertains to the three school facilities in Charlestown:
The Minority Report states that the budgeted cost to be borne by Charlestown in the first year of withdrawal for these energy improvements would be $465,000. But, this figure represents the entire cost to Charlestown for this Energy Project, including payments already made, beginning in May, 2014.
Additionally, the Minority Report states incorrectly that technology infrastructure improvements completed in 2019, including cabling, switches, and telephone systems, “will need to be purchased or replaced by Charlestown” at a cost of $185,000. As confirmed by the CFO on December 30, 2019, the total district-wide budget for this technology and telephone system was for $185,000 to complete that project in all of the district’s 13 facilities. These improvements were fully paid from the current operating budget, shared district-wide under method 5 of the Fall Mountain Apportionment formula. Charlestown contributed 43.83% of this project according to the allocation formulas (See Appendix B.). As Charlestown’s contribution represented far more than the value received for it’s three area schools and it’s share of the high school, Charlestown has already paid more than its fair share and no more is due.
The District has no other outstanding indebtedness for which Charlestown is obligated.
The Charlestown School District shall create a budget to raise and appropriate all funds necessary to provide for the education of Charlestown students enrolled in grades pre-K through 8, utilizing the existing Charlestown Middle School, Charlestown Primary School, and North Charlestown Community School.
The Life Education Academic Program (LEAP, an elementary alternative program), is currently housed at Walpole Middle School. Following withdrawal, CSD would need to contract with a third party provider or with the FMRSD to continue LEAP; or CSD would need to develop its own program. It is uncertain to what extent a CSD withdrawal from FMRSD would affect the current FMRSD program.
The Fall Mountain Regional School District shall create a budget to raise and appropriate all funds necessary to provide for the education of its students. The Fall Mountain Regional School District plans to maintain the current primary and middle schools in the remaining four towns for grades pre-K through 8.
The Charlestown School District plans to negotiate a tuition agreement with Fall Mountain Regional School District for the majority of their students in grades 9 through 12 (see Appendix C). Charlestown is interested in exploring tuition arrangements with other school districts, including both public and private high schools, as is deemed educationally appropriate.
The Fall Mountain Regional School District will continue to operate the Fall Mountain Regional High School, but has not reached a decision regarding it’s willingness to accept students in grades 9 through 12 from Charlestown on a tuition basis (see Appendix C). The FMRSD Minority Report states that the failure of CSD to send at least 95% of its students to FMRHS would result in changes to FMRHS programs.
The Charlestown School District shall meet the requirements of RSA 186-C to educate the students with special education needs in the district.
CSD will need to hire or contract with third party providers or other school districts (e.g., FMRSD) for the following services:
The Fall Mountain Regional School District shall continue to meet the requirements of RSA 186-C to educate the students with special needs in the district.
FMRSD will likely need to reduce staff in the above areas as a result of the withdrawal of CSD.
The Charlestown School District shall provide bus transportation for its students. CSD will negotiate with either FMRSD or other providers to ensure transportation of its students.
The Fall Mountain School District shall continue to provide bus transportation for its students. Currently FMRSD provides transportation to students on district owned vehicles by district employees.
Charlestown elementary and middle school age students will continue to attend the same schools following withdrawal that they attended prior to withdrawal, subject to normal grade change and geographic relocation.
Charlestown high school aged students currently attending FMRHS will have the opportunity to continue to attend FMRHS through graduation on a tuition basis.
Charlestown will honor the conditions of the existing CBA with all staff, including teachers and support staff, who remain employed in the CSD. If Charlestown withdraws from Fall Mountain, under New Hampshire law, Charlestown will become the “successor employer” for all of the employees working in the schools geographically located in Charlestown. As the successor employer, Charlestown will be responsible for honoring the terms and conditions of employment governing the unionized employees prior to withdrawal under the “status quo” doctrine. These terms and conditions of employment, including wages and hours, promotions and transfers, causes for discharge, seniority, grievance procedures, sick days, annual vacations, and other topics governing the employment relationship will continue in force in Charlestown.
For all Fall Mountain teachers who become employed by Charlestown following withdrawal, the Charlestown School District will inherit, as the successor employer, their portion of the Sick Leave Buy Back liability that is part of the collective bargaining agreement between the Fall Mountain Teachers Associations and the Fall Mountain School Board. At the time of this report, there are only 13 employees in the entire Fall Mountain School District who began work before July 1, 1995, and are eligible to receive the Sick Leave Buy Back benefit upon retirement. Of those 13 employees, only 1 employee currently works in a school located in Charlestown. Accordingly, under the successor employer doctrine, Charlestown anticipates being liable for this one teacher in an amount under $50,000, inclusive of associated benefits. These 13 eligible teachers include 8 teachers at the high school who will be eligible for sick leave buy back when they retire, at which time Charlestown would no longer directly share a portion of the high school’s annual expenses. However, it is anticipated that in those future years the tuition assessed for Charlestown high school students attending Fall Mountain High School would factor in all expenses then being incurred, including these, so there is no need to assign a portion of the future liabilities to Charlestown at the time of withdrawal. This deferred liability, which Charlestown will honor, is dramatically lower than the $290,636 incorrectly stated in the Minority Report.
Upon withdrawal of the Charlestown School District, the Fall Mountain Regional School District will continue to serve the students of the towns of Acworth, Alstead, Langdon, and Walpole.
VII. Any other matters, not incompatible with law, which the planning committee may consider appropriate to include in the Withdrawal Plan.
SAU #60 currently operates and maintains 13 properties within the Fall Mountain Regional School District. The 1966 Articles of Agreement state that at the time of the formation of the FMRSD, SAU #60 shall acquire all school properties from the five existing districts.
Upon withdrawal of the Charlestown School District, effective July 1, 2021, the Fall Mountain School District will transfer the Charlestown Middle School, Charlestown Primary School, and North Charlestown Community School to Charlestown. The Charlestown School District will acquire the contents of each building as well as capital reserve funds connected to the Charlestown buildings. The Fall Mountain School District will distribute to the Charlestown School District it’s share, whether ear-marked or pro rata, of any reserve funds of any kind, not limited to capital reserve funds or surpluses associated with Charlestown area schools, high school reserve funds, health care self-insurance reserve funds or surpluses, special education reserve funds, and reserve funds of any other description.
At the time of the preparation of this report, the Majority view is that the properties would be acquired at no cost. It is the Minority view that the properties would be acquired based on negotiations. The Minority Report asserts more specifically as to the Charlestown Primary School, constructed after the District was formed, that “the value needs to be determined so that a purchase agreement can be reached.” The Minority Report furthers suggests a budgeted cost of $650,000 for this one school. This, however, is contrary to the statutory instructions, which provide only for recovery of “the costs of capital improvements and additions to said school building incurred by the cooperative school district.” Further, the statute goes on to describe offsetting reductions for “the share which the withdrawing school district has already paid towards such costs” and for any share it is required to contribute as provided in RSA 195:27 by way of assuming indebtedness.
Thus, all amounts previously contributed by Charlestown plus all amounts of debt being assumed must be credited toward any “costs of capital improvements and additions… incurred by” FMRSD in calculating what FMRSD might be entitled to recover. It should also be borne in mind that any amounts “incurred by the cooperative school district” would have been in turn funded in substantial part by Charlestown (approximately 45%), while Charlestown was conversely contributing a comparable share of improvements to facilities located in other towns.
The Charlestown Middle School building was transferred to FMRSD with the district’s formation. No capital improvements to this building have been incurred by the cooperative district. The 2014 energy project was funded under capital lease terms that the Charlestown School District will assume as described above in Part V. Upon withdrawal of the Charlestown School District, effective July 1, 2021, the Fall Mountain School District will transfer ownership of the Charlestown Middle School at no cost.
The Charlestown Primary School was built in 1966, after formation of the district. The building construction costs totaled $268,000. Of this cost, 55% was covered by the NH State Grant. Charlestown was responsible for, and paid for, 35% of the remaining $120,600. The balance of $78,390 was paid by the FMRSD. Since that time, the initial construction costs have fully depreciated using a 50 year straight line depreciation model. The 1999 renovation of the Charlestown Primary School was authorized in a 1998 Warrant Article , which triggered three classroom addition projects at Fall Mountain Regional High School, the Charlestown Primary School, and the Walpole Primary School. Of the $769,686 committed to the three projects, only $19,686 was raised from general taxation; and that was for three projects, of which the Charlestown Primary School was only one. Thus the Charlestown Primary School addition was built over 20 years ago with little incremental contribution from district taxpayers. When the Charlestown Primary School was renovated in 2006, Charlestown taxpayers funded 100% of the cost by committing to bond payments, which CSD will assume, along with energy improvement payments, as both laid out in Part V. At the time of withdrawal, Fall Mountain School District will transfer the Charlestown Primary School to Charlestown at no cost.
In 1966, the FMRSD rented the Farwell School building in North Charlestown. In 1995 this school was renovated with funds donated by two local North Charlestown families and the labor of much of the community. The school became known as the North Charlestown Community School. In 1996, the North Charlestown Community School, including the additions to the property, none of which were funded by the FMRSD, were donated to the FMRSD. The agreement documenting that transaction states that if Charlestown were ever to withdraw from FMRSD, the building would become the property of Charlestown at no cost.
In addition, Charlestown contributed two other facilities at the formation of the cooperative district — The Holden School and the SAU Office building, both of which were subsequently sold by the District. Upon the sale, Charlestown received credit for only a portion of the proceeds corresponding to its then prevailing ADM.
The Charlestown School District will forfeit all interest in the Fall Mountain Regional High School, as well as any other school or facility being retained by Fall Mountain Regional School District and will in turn be absolved of all obligations associated with those facilities.
At the time of this report, there are no plans for withdrawal of the Charlestown School District from SAU #60.
There will be a fiscal impact on the current SAU, which would require additional staff to be added to the SAU. Based on the calculations in the Minority Report (See Appendix 7 of the Minority Report), the additional cost of running a mult-district SAU will be $291,000 in the first year of operation. These costs will be apportioned according to the formula in RSA 194-C:9.
FMRSD or CSD may seek to withdraw from SAU #60 at a later date.
Estimated fiscal impact to the four remaining towns following the withdrawal of CSD:
Acworth $199,696.00 or 13.32% increase
Alstead. $431,415.00 or 17.20% increase
Langdon. $122,095.00 or 13.07% increase
Walpole. $824,934.00 or 13.12% increase
*Please see attached comparison FY20 to FY21 Appendix A.
Estimated fiscal impact to the CSD following withdrawal, including assumptions. These are estimated costs of the first year after withdrawal. They reflect the additional costs of transportation, additional SAU services, software licensing, Tech Support, SPED and related services, as well as other anticipated costs related to operating a single district.
Charlestown budget goes from $14,079,214 in FY 2020 to $15,514,160 in FY 2021 an increase of $1,434,946
*Please see attached proposed draft 2021 budget in Appendix D.
Again, to see the full pdf, you can email me or use this link to download a copy from the FMRSD website:
Remaining Four Town Comparison FY20 to FY21
Summary of Reapportioning Results
Tuition Discussion Agreement
Charlestown School District Proposed Draft Budget for FY2021
January 3, 2020
NH Department of Education
101 Pleasant St.
Concord NH 03301-3860
FMRSD Withdrawal Committee
122 NH Rt 12A Unit 5
Langdon NH 03602
Dear Board Members:
In response to questions posed by the New Hampshire Board of Education at its hearing on December 12, 2019, the Fall Mountain Regional School District Withdrawal Committee hereby submits its “Third Revised Version” of the Charlestown Withdrawal Plan. The Committee met Thursday, January 2, 2020 with a quorum of 7 members present and voted unanimously to approve submission of this revised Withdrawal Plan. An eighth member, arriving as the meeting ended, was briefed and added his signature. To be clear, the underlying vote taken on October 23, 2019 still stands, with 6 members in favor of Charlestown’s withdrawal and 4 members opposed.
We are looking forward to the January 9, 2020 meeting.
Alissa M. Bascom