Proposed Jaffrey-Rindge apportionment change defeated

  • Don MacIsaac campaigns outside the Jaffrey VFW on Tuesday. MacIsaac said he was outside for the entire voting period, with the exception of a two-hour lunch and a few breaks to warm up.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Town voting, March 13, 2018 (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Town voting, March 13, 2018 (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Town voting, March 13, 2018 (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 6:22PM

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District apportionment change warrant article was defeated at the polls Tuesday.

The article needed a two-thirds majority to pass but only received a 47.8-percent approval between the two towns. A total of 90.8-percent of the 1,429 people in Rindge who voted for the article felt it should pass, while 96.5-percent of the 1,386 voters in Jaffrey voted it down. 

“I’m trying to avoid having this be a win or lose experience,” said Jaffrey resident Don MacIsaac, who actively campaigned against article’s passing leading up to voting day. “Here’s an opportunity for the school board to reassess its decision and to join other school boards to address the legislature [about changing the state adequacy aid formula].”

While both towns had a high turnout compared to previous March voting days, the town of Jaffrey blew previous March voting days out of the water.

This year, 1,439 ballots were cast in Jaffrey (35.7-percent) and 1,462 ballots were cast in Rindge (32.7-percent). 

From 2013 to 2017, Jaffrey had a turnout of 333 to 796 voters – or 9.6 to 22.6-percent of the checklist – in March. Rindge had a turnout of 966 to 1,505 voters – or 21 to 36-percent of the checklist – in the same time period. 

With the article defeated, the district’s apportionment will remain a 50-50 blend of each town’s average student count and equalized property valuations. The article aimed to eliminate property valuation from the formula. 

MacIsaac said Wednesday morning that he hopes future discussions about apportionment are focused around the state legislature, in hopes that a fair and equitable solution can be found by altering the state’s adequacy aid formulas. MacIsaac had attempted to go a similar route earlier in the budgeting process, when he proposed an amendment to the apportionment article at deliberative session. 

Rindge Selectwoman Roberta Oeser said Wednesday morning that the town’s selectmen would have to have a discussion at a future meeting to determine the next steps for Rindge.

“It’s been very disappointing,” said Oeser, who started the district’s discussion about apportionment over a year ago when she submitted a petition article to change the district’s apportionment by removing property valuations. Her article was last changed at deliberative session to establish an apportionment committee to study the district’s formula, which passed during voting day last year. 

Oeser would not comment one way or the other on the potential of trying to split the district up, other than saying it would be very bad for both towns. 

“Rindge needs relief,” said Oeser. “Jaffrey was using a lot of scare tactics, and a lot of the facts they used were inaccurate.” 

Current school board chair Laurel McKenzie said that apportionment will certainly be a topic of discussion at future board meetings. 

This year’s lone petition article also failed. If passed, it would’ve changed the vote required to alter the district’s articles of agreement from two-thirds to three-fifths. 

Rindge voters were split on the article, voting 760 in favor and 601 against. In Jaffrey, voters overwhelmingly voted against the article by a vote of 49 for it and 1,375 against it. The article needed to pass by two-thirds but only received 29-percent of the vote. 

Rindge resident Heidi Graff was elected to the school board over Alicia Stenersen by a vote of 718 to 593. The Rindge school board race was the only contested race this year, with moderator Robert Schaumann and Jaffrey school board member Laurel McKenzie each winning their races. 

All other warrant articles on the ballot were passed.

With the district’s $25.9 million budget passed, the district will now look to make some large changes at the middle and high school. The budget called for eliminating a principal position at the middle/high school, moving SAU staff into the middle school building, eliminating a librarian and half a nurse position at the middle/high school and other changes. Half a music teacher position was added to the middle/high school.

The following warrant articles were also passed: approval of the cost items associated with a two-year collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Jaffrey-Rindge Support Staff Association; housekeeping changes to the district’s articles of agreement, adding $150,000 to the SAU47 building maintenance capital reserve fund and $100,000 to the special education contingency fund using funds from the June 30 fund balance.