Apportionment vote discussed at Jaffrey candidates night

  • Former selectman Don MacIsaac addressed the crowd at Thursday’s candidates night, telling everyone in attendance why they should vote against the proposed school district apportionment change.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, March 05, 2018 5:36PM

Former Jaffrey selectman Don MacIsaac used Thursday’s candidates night as an opportunity to urge Jaffrey taxpayers to “get out the vote.”

MacIsaac discussed and fielded questions on two Jaffrey-Rindge School District warrant articles: one that would eliminate property values from the district’s apportionment formula and a petition article that would reduce the percentage of votes required to change the district’s articles of agreement from two-thirds to three-fifths. 

“The issue is state aid, not the apportionment formula,” said MacIsaac, who urged people to vote no on both articles. “It’s critical that all Jaffrey voters turn out. It’s a huge hit on our taxes and there’s no benefit to the Jaffrey taxpayers.”

The current formula is a 50-50 blend of property values and average student membership. The article on this year’s ballot would eliminate property values over a six year phase in.

It is estimated that Jaffrey’s tax rate would increase $2.20 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation by the end of the phase in, while Rindge’s tax rate would decrease by an estimated $1.70. 

MacIsaac called the district’s estimated tax changes “low-balled numbers,” as they don’t account for budgetary increases, changes to state aid, and other future changes. 

MacIsaac said a grassroots organization has recently formed in town with the goal of getting Jaffrey voters out to the polls. MacIsaac the group has been responsible for mailings, lawn signs, and other literature being distributed through town. 

Rindge voters have historically outnumbered Jaffrey voters on election day, MacIsaac said, in some cases as high as two to one. Both articles require a two-thirds vote to pass. 

At deliberative session in February, MacIsaac unsuccessfully attempted to change the current apportionment warrant article to establish a working group to review state school aid relative to its effect on the district’s apportionment formula. The amendment – which failed by a secret ballot vote of 49 to 99 – would have asked the group to undertake the forming of a coalition of towns to work with the state legislature to develop a proposal to make state aid more fair. 

“Everyone is having the same problem, so let’s fix it together,” said MacIsaac. 

MacIsaac made a similar motion at last year’s deliberative session – to form an apportionment committee to make recommendations to the school board after looking at the fairness of the district’s apportionment formula – which replaced a petition article to remove property valuation from the apportionment formula on the 2017 ballot.

The study of the apportionment committee, coupled with subsequent discussions by the school board, is what created the current warrant article. 

Resident Rob Stephenson said he was concerned about potential fallout from the apportionment vote, and wondered if a lawsuit, another warrant article, or even a separation of the district could be looming. 

“There’s going to be a winner and a loser,” said Stephenson. 

Resident John Stone wondered if the town could charge the town of Rindge for police and fire services utilized at the middle and high school should the apportionment be changed, as a way for the town to make back some of the tax increase. 

“When police and fire are called to the middle and high school, Jaffrey pays for that,” said Stone. “I wouldn’t want to see [us charge Rindge],  but it’s crossed my mind.”

School Board chair Laurel McKenzie – who spoke earlier in the night as a candidate running for office – said the board looked at the number of times police had been sent to the middle and high school over a year period and determined that in addition to there not being many calls, most of the calls made were teachers setting off alarms.

McKenzie said the value of Jaffrey’s two TIF districts, which aren’t factored into the apportionment formula, “more then compensates” for the services rendered at the middle and high school.

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