Hollis Brookline Co-op voters should shoot down co-op petition warrant articles

To the Editor:

I am writing to urge Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District voters from both towns to vote down all of the co-op petition warrant articles, with emphasis on Article 12 that would require a two-thirds super majority to make future changes to the co-op’s articles of agreement, and Article 15 that changes the co-op cost apportionment formula.

These articles could shift $8 million to $12 million of taxes under the current formula from Brookline to Hollis using the new formula.

During the Feb. 20 public hearing on these articles in Hollis, Eric Pauer, the petitioner who submitted these articles, ran through a few slides. To support the requirement for super majority voting, Mr. Pauer drew a comparison to the process for amending the U.S. Constitution.

I admire our Constitution as well, but pragmatically why would a co-op voter from the member town with a smaller population want to impose a super majority to make changes to the co-op agreement? A Brookline voter complained during public input on a later article that under the current simple majority voting rules, Brookline suffers because Hollis has more voters. I believe the article is a transparent effort to lock-in apportionment changes that Mr. Pauer believes will benefit Brookline under the current simple majority rule and then set a higher two-thirds requirement for future changes.

The only analysis provided in support of Article 15, the change to apportionment, was a pie chart depicting how other co-ops apportion costs. The funding challenges of each co-op district are unique. Would we really adopt one apportionment method rather than another because the majority of co-ops uses it?

As to the analysis of how taxes for either town would change as a result of the change in apportionment, there was none. Absolutely no information was provided as to who would pay more or less.

As chairman of the Hollis Budget Committee, I created what is called the Tax Rate Decomposition Model. This is an analytic tool that is used in the town of Hollis, the Hollis School District and the Hollis Brookline Co-op School District to forecast tax rate changes. It accounts for every individual tax component, i.e. town and school operating budgets, warrant articles costs, collective bargaining agreements, local revenue, state aid, etc. This analytic tool produces tax rate figures that are within rounding error of the official numbers provided by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration back modeled to 2006.

Why do I mention the model? I have used it to run the numbers. As written, Article 15 would reapportion $8 million to $12 million dollars of future taxes currently assigned to Brookline to Hollis taxpayers over the minimum five years the new formula would be used. I hope all voters can look past my Hollis residency and accept as credible my estimation of the effect of the proposed change to apportionment.

On Dec. 18, 2013, the Co-op School Board voted to create an Apportionment Committee. As a candidate for the Co-op School Board, I would hope Mr. Pauer is aware of the establishment of the committee and would respect the actions of the Co-op School Board to fairly address the apportionment issue.

Why would he circumvent the process? Why don’t we let the committee, comprising members of both towns, conduct a thoughtful review as we have done in the past? I am concerned that if the apportionment article passes as written, Hollis voters will begin the process to dissolve the co-op.

I wonder if Mr. Pauer has run the numbers to see how much building a new high school in Brookline will add to his tax bill.