Jaffrey-Rindge to put apportionment change article on March ballot

  • Jaffrey-Rindge School Board members Dan Aho, Alison Bergeron, and John McCarthy, left to right, discuss apportionment following a public hearing on Wednesday. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/8/2018 5:58:17 PM

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School Board continues to be divided about a potential change to the district’s apportionment formula.

The board voted 5-2 on Wednesday to officially put a warrant article on the March ballot that would eliminate equalized property value from the school district’s apportionment formula if passed. The formula is currently a 50/50 mix of each town’s property value and average daily student count. 

“This solves the problem for Rindge, but leaves Jaffrey in a situation that is too destructive,” said board member John McCarthy, who joined Alison Bergeron in voting against the article. Both members represent Jaffrey on the board.  

“There’s a good chance this could pass, but I’m not in favor.”

The warrant article will have to pass by a two-thirds majority vote. If passed, the change would be phased in over a five-year period beginning with the 2019-20 school year. Article language includes a trigger to examine the change, should the state change how it calculates adequacy aid. All state aid will remain with each town, as is currently the case. 

If passed, there is an estimated tax increase for Jaffrey of $2.25 over the five year period and a decrease of $1.70 for Rindge over the same period. The estimated increase and decrease are completely separate from any other warrant articles that are passed over that period. Despite a decrease in tax rate, the town of Rindge as a whole would still pay more to fund the district. 

“The district is in a difficult place no matter where it falls,” said board chair Laurel McKenzie. “If I look at things through a lens of fairness, then I support this plan.”

The vote of 5-2 mirrors a vote taken by the board in December to craft the warrant article. 

Prior to making it’s decision, the board held a public hearing, which brought over 20 people to Conant High School, most being from Jaffrey. 

“Pushing the Jaffrey tax rate up is a big push,” said State Rep. Dick Ames. “I suspect there will be a big pushback no matter the rationale.”

Some in attendance were there to ask clarification questions, while others were their to show their support or opposition to the proposed change.

“Rindge can’t afford this any longer,” said Rindge resident and Selectwoman Roberta Oeser. “We keep taking a hit in not being able to afford the things we need [at the town level.]”

Many Jaffrey residents who spoke felt that rather than making this a district problem – with the warrant article potentially pitting the two towns against each other – the school board should approach the state about changing the adequacy aid formula.

“Shouldn’t we work together to solve this problem at the state level?” asked Jaffrey resident and Town Manager Jon Frederick. “I think we need to go after the state together.”

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

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