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Report on Apportionment

Keep up to date on Apportionment Review Committee news at www.sau41.org/hbcsb-home.

Bill Matthews gave a presentation on apportionment at the Hollis Democrats monthly meeting on May 27, 2014. Matthews is a citizen representative to the Apportionment Review Committee, which was formed by the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School Board after the town votes of March 2014. Apportionment, the division of the tax load between the two towns of the Cooperative School District, was a contentious topic at the March meetings. The Apportionment Review Committee was formed to investigate the issues and make a recommendation to the Cooperative School Board.

Matthews' presentation had not yet been reviewed by the Apportionment Review Committee, so he was presenting a preview of slides that he would submit to the committee. He is a former member of the Cooperative Budget Committee (1996 - 2005) and former Chairman of the Cooperative Budget Committee (1997 - 2004).

Matthews explained that apportionment is a method of dividing costs between the towns based on two types of calculations, one involving the student population from each town, and the other involving the property values in each town. In a single town school district, a single tax rate would be set and all households would pay a school tax according to the value of their property. In a tuition system, a single cost would be set for each student in the school and both towns would pay based on the number of students. In a cooperative district, there exists the opportunity to use a composite of the two systems to apportion the costs between the towns. Currently, the Cooperative School District uses a formula based 100% on student population ("Average Daily Membership", or ADM), and does not factor in property values of the two towns ("Equalized Valuation", or EV).

Matthews went through the apportionment calculations for this year's (2014-2015) Cooperative School District budget, which showed that student population ("Average Daily Membership") was 54.5% Hollis students and 45.5% Brookline students. However, when you factor in Brookline's state aid, Hollis' net percentage (of the total costs minus state aid) becomes slightly higher (56.6% Hollis, 43.4% Brookline).

Controversy arises when asking the question: which town pays more? There are multiple answers. By town, Hollis pays more ($7.9 million vs $6 million) because Hollis has more students and receives less state aid. By student, Hollis pays somewhat more ($11,745 vs $10,320), again because Brookline receives more state aid. However, by tax rate, Brookline pays almost double ($12.21 per thousand of assessed value vs $6.65 per thousand), because Brookline has less than half the property value over which to distribute its costs. And by average assessed home, Brookline pays somewhat more ($3,333 vs $2,179), because although the average assessed home in Brookline is less than the average assessed home in Hollis, that does not completely offset the lower overall property value over which Brookline distributes its costs.

Apportionment formulas typically use either Average Daily Membership, Equalized Valuation, or a combination of both. Currently, Hollis EV is $1,204,484,112, and Brookline's EV is $505,557,353, so the Equalized Valuation ratio is 70.4% Hollis, 29.6% Brookline. The Average Daily Membership ratio is 54.5% Hollis, 45.5% Brookline. If the current formula (100% ADM) were to change at all, it would be to include some adjustments for the Equalized Valuation numbers of the two towns. This would shift some of the cost from Brookline to Hollis. However, because Hollis has about 2.4 times the property value of Brookline, a small shift of costs from Brookline to Hollis would lower Brookline's tax rate more than twice as much as it would raise Hollis' tax rate.

Historically, prior formulas for the Hollis Brookline Cooperative District apportionment have been:

50% ADM / 50% EV (1991 - 1996)

60% ADM / 40% EV (1996 - 2002)

75% ADM / 25% EV (2002 - 2007)

100% ADM / 0% EV (2007 - present)

Once changed, the new apportionment formula is locked in for 5 years.

What apportionment formulas do other cooperative school districts in New Hampshire use? A chart revealed that about ⅓ of the districts use 100% ADM, about ⅓ of the districts use a 50% ADM / 50% Equalized Valuation formula, and the remaining ⅓ use formulas somewhere in between.

Matthews' presentation was reviewed by the apportionment committee at their meeting on May 29 and, with some revisions, forms the basis of the first public forum on apportionment on June 11 at the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy in Brookline

The Apportionment Review Committee's mission from the School Board is to develop a formula for apportioning Cooperative School District costs that will promote a sense of mutual investment in the Cooperative School District, will facilitate and enable long-term planning for the District, and will be broadly viewed as acceptable by a wide cross-section of voters in the District.

The Apportionment Review Committee members are:

  • 2 School Board Members (Tom Solon, Brookline and Cindy Van Coughnett, Hollis)
  • 2 Co-op Budget Committee Members (Darlene Mann (secretary), Hollis and David Blin, Brookline)
  • 1 Selectman Representative from Hollis - Frank Cadwell
  • 1 Selectman Representative from Brookline - Darrell Philpot
  • 1 Budget Committee member from Hollis - Michael Harris (chair)
  • 1 Finance Committee member from Brookline - Brian Rater (vice chair)
  • 2 Citizens from each town (Bill Matthews and Dan Peterson from Hollis; Michelle Jimeno and Randy Farwell from Brookline)
  • SAU Superintendent as a non-voting member

 

Questions and suggestions concerned:

  • the need for clarification and expansion of the discussion on property values and student population;
  • questions about the reasons why the apportionment formula has changed in the past;
  • concern about how changes in the apportionment formula would affect the taxes in Hollis;
  • an observation that the current situation (100% ADM) does not encourage investment or loyalty or unity between the two towns;
  • a request to make any changes in small increments and not big jumps;
  • and questions about how far into the future a cooperative agreement makes sense (vs separating the school districts).

For more information on the proceedings of the Apportionment Review Committee, see www.sau41.org/hbcsb-home. The Committee has scheduled two public forums, one at Captain Samuel Douglass Academy on June 11, and one at Hollis Brookline Middle School on September 4. In addition, all Committee meetings are open to the public. A schedule of the meetings is available on the website. Slides from the public forum will also be available on the website.