OSSIPEE — The Governor Wentworth Regional School District is asking a judge to order selectmen to provide $8.5 million to cover the town’s share of costs to operate the school district.
The school district filed suit in Carroll County Superior Court on Nov. 1 claiming that selectmen Sandra “Sam” Martin, Martha Eldridge and Susan Simpson have refused to make Ossipee’s payment to the district treasurer, in violation of state law.
In late October, the selectmen sent a letter to the state Department of Revenue Administration saying their position is that having the town bill and collect for local education runs counter to Article 5, Part 2 of the state constitution. They asked the DRA to set the local school tax rate at $0 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Attorney Barbara F. Loughman, who practices in the area of education law, argues in court filings that it is unjust to allow Ossipee selectmen to refuse to comply with RSA 198:5 while expecting the six other member towns in the school district to pay up.
Were the towns of Brookfield, Effingham, New Durham, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro to follow suit, the district would be unable to continue to operate the six elementary schools, the middle school or Kingswood Regional High School.
Loughman has asked the court to order Ossipee selectmen to pay all past due amounts based on the school board’s payment schedule to the district within 15 days.
She is also asking the court to make the town comply with the monthly payment schedule prepared by the district and to award the district attorney’s fees and legal costs.
According to a document regarding preliminary 2019-2020 payments, Ossipee’s total payment to the school district should be $8,590,010.
The town had wanted to make equal monthly payments of $716,000 while the school district is asking that Ossipee abide by its billing schedule of a $1,606,670 payment in July, $1,182,445 in August, $111,332 in September, $535,557 in October, $535,556 in November, $535,557 in December, $434,776 in January, $1,071,114 in February, $535,557 in March, no payment in April, $970,333 in May and $1,071,113 in June.
A one-hour hearing has been scheduled in Carroll County Superior Court for Dec. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Prior to filing suit, Loughman sent a letter to selectmen stating that the town needed to pay $1,107,560, of which $572,004 was past due.
The selectmen’s position on education funding came after Gilmanton resident Joseph S. Haas Jr. spoke to them on Sept. 30.
Haas has filed suit against his hometown arguing that he should not have to pay the school portion of his taxes as he has no children enrolled.
During their meeting Nov. 4, the school board voted unanimously to move forward with the legal action against Ossipee.