Towns still at odds over school funding

  • Jaffrey-Rindge School Board member Forbes Farmer motioned to have the apportionment committee meet again to try and come to a unified solution. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Jaffrey-Rindge School Board member John McCarthy was one of the board members to recommend bringing in a mediator or other third party person to help the apportionment committee come to a unified solution.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Jaffrey-Rindge Apportionment Committee has been directed to reconvene in hopes that representatives from the two towns will come forward at a later date with a unified proposal regarding funding the Jaffrey-Rindge School District.

Two proposals to change the School District’s apportionment calculations were presented to the Jaffrey-Rindge School Board on Monday: one from Jaffrey’s representatives and one from Rindge’s.

After listening to both presentations, the board voted 5-0 to request that the committee meet again to try to come to a unified solution. Board member Jeffrey Clark-Kevan did not vote, as he was not at the meeting, and board vice chair Charlie Eicher – who presented Rindge’s proposal – abstained, saying he had already shown his bias. 

“Did your committee give any thought to how much easier it would be if the two towns could agree to a compromise, which would allow us to present a united proposal to the two towns?” questioned board member Forbes Farmer. “You guys are the experts… there has to be room for more compromise.”

Board chair Laurel McKenzie – who served on the committee as Jaffrey’s Planning Board representative – presented Jaffrey’s proposal, which would add the captured value from Jaffrey’s two tax increment financing (TIF) districts to Jaffrey’s property value calculation, adding $16.7 million to the town’s $419.4 million net equalized value.

Jaffrey’s proposal would keep the district’s current apportionment formula –  a 50-50 split of average daily membership and equalized property values – in place, but would credit preliminary state adequacy aid to the district, prior to the apportionment calculation. Stability grants and statewide education property tax (SWEPT) would still be credited to each town. 

Rindge’s proposal would change the district’s apportionment formula, removing the property value part of the equation entirely to have apportionment be based exclusively on each town’s student population. 

Eicher said that eliminating the property value portion of the formula was fair because when the original formula was created, there was no external state aid awarded to the towns, which has been skewing apportionment because disparities are being corrected twice. 

“Unless we address the formula, we will be back here every year,” said Eicher. “With our formula, all disparity is handled by a third party in Concord.”

Using numbers provided by the district and the state, Eicher calculated potential changes for each town based on each proposal. 

If no changes were made, Jaffrey’s estimated local tax rate for 2017-18 would be $16.84, while Rindge’s would be $17.46. 

Under Jaffrey’s proposal, Jaffrey’s estimated local tax rate for 2017-18 would increase to $18.14, with Rindge’s decreasing slightly to $16.45. 

Rindge’s proposal would decrease the Rindge’s local tax rate to $15.41, while Jaffrey’s would increase to $19.47. 

Multiple school board members brought up the idea of bringing in a third party to mediate the situation.

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who was in attendance at the meeting, told the board he would pass along potential resources that could be used by the committee at no charge. 

The members of the apportionment committee had been working to come to an agreement throughout the summer, and they decided on Aug.15 that a unified agreement would not be reached. The committee was formed by a petition warrant article passed at Town Meeting this past March and was tasked with looking at the fairness of the district’s apportionment formula. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.