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Derry boards will try again to cooperate

By RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent

June 22. 2018 11:32PM




DERRY — The Town Council and School Board have agreed to meet at the council meeting on July 17 to discuss school district budget issues. And they have agreed to continue holding joint subcommittee meetings, which were derailed amid acrimony after the last April meeting.

School Board Chair Lynn Perkins wrote a letter to Council Chairman Jim Morgan that says “please include us for the Town Council meeting on July 17.”

Morgan read the letter, which was a response to his invitation, to the council. He said it’s evident there’s a willingness to sit down and discuss tax and revenue issues in the school district.

“I think the letter from Lynn Perkins showed a level of cooperation that we haven’t seen today,” Morgan said in an interview after the meeting.

The July 17 meeting will be limited to discussing specific unanticipated revenues coming to the district, such as $54,000 in adequacy funding from the state, secured by recent legislation, according to board member Dan McKenna.

The board also hopes to present some of their ideas on how to handle some of those revenues.

Perkins said it’s important to understand that educational budgeting is complicated and under-budgeting can have disastrous effects.

During the July 17 meeting, Morgan plans to publicly schedule the next joint subcommittee meeting, which he wants to set for late July or early August.

The topic of the subcommittee meeting has been a point of contention between the two bodies. Some board members believed the councilors’ primary agenda was to move forward with plans to absorb the district as a town department.

A non-binding referendum in March calling for that restructuring passed with 52 percent of the vote.

When an amendment to a bill enabling absorption moved forward without the board being informed, some board members felt betrayed. Board member Paul Lutz said at the last board meeting that the council’s actions were “duplicitous” and “underhanded.”

Morgan said the discussions will be open to finding solutions that will lead them to a better district budget that curbs significant tax hikes. The school board made it clear they do not want to talk about absorbing the district.

“There’s no sense in trying to force a situation that the school board doesn’t want to address,” Morgan said.

Morgan said during the last council meeting that he wants to reach some kind of agreement to stabilize school district costs within the next six months. If they can’t, the town will move forward with a March ballot measure and state legislation to absorb the district.

“I hate to put time limits on anything. I don’t think it’s fair to do so. But we’re up against a time limit,” Morgan said, referring to the window for adding a ballot measure in mid-January.

Morgan said he would be swayed to drop efforts to absorb the district if they can find another way to make a district budget that is “in the spirit of the tax cap.”

He would also prefer to have the state legislation enabling the absorption done first, but the two steps don’t have to happen in any particular order.

The subcommittee will include Morgan, councilors Richard Tripp and Brian Chirichiello. McKenna said he, Perkins and board member Michelle McKinnon are the three board members assigned to the subcommittee.

ldnews@unionleader.com


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