Withdrawal study flier draws fire

  • Sarah Steinberg critizes a flyer left on seats at Peterborough's deliberative session April 5, 2016. (Benji Rosen / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/13/2016 7:19:18 PM

ConVal officials and a legislator are calling a flier that promotes Peterborough seceding from the school district disingenuous. 

And some voters at the Peterborough Deliberative Session, where the flier was distributed, aren’t happy about it. 

“This sheet of paper is manipulative, and shouldn’t have been put out without being addressed [by the town],” said Sarah Steinberg, as she waved it at Moderator L. Phillips Runyon during deliberative session. “It’s choosing to use certain language that is manipulative.” 

Runyon said it’s customary to allow those in support or against warrant articles to provide informational material. 

The flier, scattered on seats at the April 5 hearing, was distributed by members of a group that submitted a petition that directs the school board to study Peterborough leaving the district, said Nadia MacStay, one of its members. If voters approve the petition May 10, RSA 195:25 requires the district perform the study.

The handout provides information about the demographics of the region, district expenses and state aid it receives. It lists census data about the aging population of the region, as well as the drop in its student population ConVal projects through 2025. The flier also refers to how much the district spends, as well as future costs the district and its nine member towns must bear. 

“Voting yes to the warrant article on May 10 will allow Peterborough to be in the process of moving forward to find a workable solution to our ever-present, problematic situation,” it reads. 

But, it’s the explanation of future expenses that Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) and ConVal officials say is misleading.

Leishman faults how the flier characterized adequacy aid. 

“Due to the decline in school population, [state] adequacy funding has been sharply reduced,” the flier reads. “Future reductions in funding will continue due to declining student enrollments.” 

Leishman said this is just not true. Total per pupil aid has increased, he said.

According to the Department of Education, the total amount of grants and aid distributed from 2012 to 2016 varied from $562 million to $580 million. The lowest given out was $562 million in 2015. The highest was $578 million in 2012. About $570 million was given out in 2016. 

Leishman also said ConVal is not a donor town, which a DOE spokeswoman confirmed yesterday. There are no longer donor towns in New Hampshire. 

When asked about the flier, school board members and the business administrator criticized other content. The flier states that Peterborough bears “large additional costs due to the district’s support of many half-empty schools” and “eight district schools are near-half or below capacity.” But Rich Cahoon said it does not mention that the capacity of Peterborough Elementary School is presently 61 percent, and the capacity of South Meadow School, also in Peterborough, is 66 percent. 

Cahoon also disapproved of the how the flier portrays the money Peterborough owes the district. “Peterborough’s school portion of our tax rate will continue to climb,” reads the flier. Cahoon said the ratio of the portions of the tax rate in Peterborough that go to the town and ConVal is one of the closest of any member town. The municipal portion of the 2015 tax rate was $10.06. The local education portion of the 2015 tax rate was $15.82. In comparison, Temple’s municipal portion of its tax rate was $5.73, while its local education portion was $16.60. In Antrim, the municipal portion was $12.52, while the school portion was $11.57. 

MacStay and Kevin Rushalko, another group member, did not reply by press time for a request for a comment. 

The flier also lists the per pupil cost of ConVal compared to the state. They are $17,022.56 and $14,374.93, respectively, according to the DOE. 


Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenjiRosenMLT

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