Attend March 3 Hollis Brookline co-op meeting to vote on important issues

To the Editor:

There are many important issues significantly impacting property taxes that will be decided during the March 3 Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District meeting.

Although I am writing this letter as a private citizen, I am a current member of the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District Budget Committee, and I was the co-op Budget Committee chairwoman during 2012-13. This year, the co-op Budget Committee carefully considered several spending articles and voted to not recommend the $5.52 million bond (Article 2) to expand the high school and add an expensive athletic complex.

The state has suspended 40 percent building aid, student enrollment continues to sharply decline and the taxpayers are still hurting from the recession. Additionally, the co-op Budget Committee did not recommend the $317,000 warrant to give teachers 4 percent to 4.5 percent raises, 8 percent stipends to department heads, and monetary attendance and merit bonuses to staff members. While the co-op Budget Committee does not recommend these articles, it is ultimately up to the voters who are present at the meeting on March 3 to make the decision.

Another important issue is Article 15, which addresses apportionment of costs between Hollis and Brookline. The current 100 percent average daily membership (ADM) formula, in place since 2007, has been causing asymmetric tax increases between the towns. Currently, a $300 tax bill increase in Hollis results in a $510 tax bill increase in Brookline.

To illustrate, consider a $350,000 home in each town. In fiscal 2007, the Hollis taxpayer paid $2,633 in co-op taxes, while the Brookline taxpayer paid $2,993 ($360 more). In fiscal 2014, the same Hollis taxpayer paid $2,258, while the Brookline taxpayer paid $4,037 ($1,988 more). Thus, over seven years, the Hollis taxpayer’s COOP bill has gone down 10 percent, while the Brookline taxpayer’s co-op bill has gone up 46 percent. Clearly, the current apportionment formula is not resulting in fair distribution of taxes among district taxpayers.

When the cooperative district was formed in 1991, the apportionment formula was 50 percent ADM and 50 percent equalized valuation. We need to return to this formula to help restore taxpayer balance in the co-op. If this formula and unfairness is not corrected, the viability of the co-op will be at risk.

For more taxpayer information, please visit the citizen website http://sau41.com. More importantly, please attend the meeting on Monday, March 3 at the Hollis Brookline High School to have your vote and voice heard on these important issues.

DIANE PAUER

Brookline