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Castleberry Fairs

Local state rep continues to seek increased oversight on school district's budget

July 19, 2018
OSSIPEE — The Ossipee selectmen want a Governor Wentworth Regional School District budget committee made up of representatives from each of the six towns in the district. They reached out to each town asking for support of the idea.

It came as little surprise to Ossipee Selectmen Chairman Richard Morgan that Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro selectmen do not support the idea while selectmen in Effingham, New Durham and Brookfield do.

The district was formed in 1964, and the formula for apportioning the cost to each town has not changed since then. Ossipee's 2018 bill is $8.4 million a year, a calculation based 75 percent on average daily student attendance and 25 percent on the total equalized property value of the town. Morgan said July 16 that the $8.4 million may very well be justified but the towns deserve an oversight ability and the formula needs to be addressed.

One person who tried to address the formula through legislation this year is New Hampshire State Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield). He sponsored legislation to have the cost each town contributes in regional school districts to be apportioned based on assessed valuation only, the same as County taxes are divvied it. Comeau told selectmen July 16 that the legislation was "crushed" with the New Hampshire School Board Association and even the GWRSD superintendent testifyied against it. County taxes are not levied to each town based on how many of a town's residents live at the county nursing home or the jail, so why should school taxes consider how many students a town sends to the district's school he questioned.

Morgan is hoping the property-rich towns of Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro bowing out of the budget committee idea is not the end of the conversation but rather the start. While it has always seemed an inequitable system of disbursing school costs, Morgan said this year hit Ossipee particularly hard. The total school district budget increased by $1.5 million over 2017 and the Ossipee taxpayers are going to have to shell out $900,000 of that.

Tuftonboro's letter thanked Ossipee for expressing its concern but, at this time, forming a budget committee is an "inappropriate way" to start the discussion.

New Durham "fully concurs" there are issues with the funding formula and that a budget committee is "greatly needed". Brookfield and Effingham selectmen also wrote letters of support.

Wolfeboro selectmen, however, believe that a budget committee is only advisory and would not have much authority over the budget. They also wrote that it is "not under the purview of selectmen to intervene in school budget matters."

Comeau is moving forward with trying to schedule a meeting with selectmen in all six towns to open up the conversation.

Tiffany Eddy
Martin Lord Osman
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