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February 12. 2013 9:53PM

Goffstown wants Dunbarton to pay even if it leaves district

GOFFSTOWN - The town of Dunbarton will need to repay its share of a bond for renovations at Goffstown High School if it ends its 40-year partnership with the district, according to Goffstown officials.

Goffstown School Board Chairman Philip Pancoast said improvements made at GHS, paid for by $11 million in bonds in 2001, are partially Dunbarton's responsibility even if the district opts for an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Bow beginning in 2014.

"Dunbarton has taken the position that should its community elect to enter into an AREA plan with the Bow School District in July of 2014, it will no longer have any obligation for repayment of the bonds that funded the renovation of Goffstown High School, which amounts to $880,000," Pancoast said.

Dunbarton has negotiated two AREA agreements - one with Goffstown and one with Bow - and voters must choose at the district meeting March 16 which town will educate thier middle and high school students

According to figures provided by the district's business office, after obtaining a lower interest rate on the bonds in 2010, about $6.75 million is still owed and is expected to be paid by July of 2021.

Pancoast said Dunbarton students have benefited from the improvements made at Goffstown High School, and that repayment should be over the life of the bond, not the life of the AREA agreement.

According to Pancoast, the renovations contributed to the school's re-accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

School Board Chairman Rene Ouelett has previously said that if the agreement expires, Dunbarton is not considered to be withdrawing from it, and that state statute doesn't address the repayment of bonds in the event of an agreement's expiration.

Sarah Browning, policy and law administrator of the Department of Education, said she is unsure if the statute addresses the expiration of an AREA agreement or if there is a disagreement about semantics.

She said if there is a dispute between the towns that can't be resolved they can go to the State Board of Education, which was done recently when the districts disagreed over rental charges billed by Goffstown to the sending districts.

Browning said attorneys could also attempt to resolve the conflict or Goffstown could bring its case to the state Supreme Court.

Pancoast pointed out that the current agreement allows intervention by the State Board of Education, but said that if Dunbarton simply allows the agreement to expire, "they've taken away all of the provisions of the agreement."

Pancoast compared the agreement to a marriage, and said in its new 10-year agreement, Goffstown has gone above and beyond what is required to make sure that marriage stays intact.





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