March 12, 2014LINCOLN — Article 14 on the Lin-Wood Cooperative School District warrant would alter the way the cooperative school district is funded. The idea, which would lower taxes in Woodstock with a corresponding increase in Lincoln, has been controversial since the school board voted last spring to bring the issue to the voters.
The proposed change included in Article 14 would set the district's tax liability for the towns at 65 percent for Lincoln and 35 percent for Woodstock. Currently, the two towns fund the district based on a 50/50 split of average daily student attendance and the fair market property value. Although Woodstock has slightly more students at the school in recent years, Lincoln has more than three times the property value. As a result, Lincoln currently finances 62.3 percent of the Lin-Wood budget.
District data estimates that a vote to change the formula would raise the total tax assessment in Lincoln by $181,000, while Woodstock's would fall by the same amount. This translates into a 23-cent increase in the tax rate for Lincoln. Woodstock's drop in the rate is projected at 75 cents if Article 14 passes.
The Town of Lincoln is interested in ensuring its residents turn out for the district meeting. To that end, the selectmen decided to offer residents a ride to the polls on the night of the district meeting, March 20. As noted last week by O.J. Robinson, chairman of the board of selectmen, "The town will assist in getting people to the polls."
Robinson supports the status quo, rather than Article 14. "If we vote no," Robinson said last week on the formula, "it stays the same."
Lin-Wood business manager Debbie O'Connor said 1988 was the last time the district changed the funding formula. The formula has been reviewed in recent years, but not altered. If voters support the change later this month, O'Connor continued, state law requires the new formula remain in place for five years.
In October, the district hosted a public meeting to provide information on the funding formula. Public comments were minimal at that meeting.
Robinson said the town's many capital improvement needs require a minimal tax increase from the school district. He noted passage of the funding formula change would cost the town more than the proposed bond payments on the Bunker Lane levee and water intake improvements combined. Both of those infrastructure projects are on the town meeting ballot.
The district's annual meeting is at 7 p.m. on March 20. Residents looking for a ride to the district meeting can call the Lincoln Town Hall at 745-2757. Those interested in reviewing a series of slides that details the funding formula issue can go to: http://www.lin-wood.org/Page/1137.