Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 9, 2007

Charlestown’s solution to Hopkinton exit

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,grade spans — Editor @ 6:05 pm

From the Chariho Times

CHARIHO – Would Hopkinton voters be persuaded to vote in favor of the $26 million Chariho bond if the Chariho Act is amended to allow towns to leave, or partially leave the Chariho district while still having debt?

On Monday, Feb. 26, while Charlestown’s town council discussed the proposed one-third payback plan for the Chariho bond, councilor Harriet Allen proposed an amendment to persuade Hopkinton voters to vote in favor of the Chariho bond.

Allen stated a significant amount of Hopkinton voters will vote against the bond because the debt accrued would prevent Hopkinton from partially leaving the school district, if desired.

In turn, Allen proposed amending the Chariho Act to allow towns within the district to leave or partially leave even with debt.

“It would be such a hook,” said Allen. “Instead of having a group that’s looking to shoot down the bond, we could have a group of people looking to approve the bond.”

There are two basic assumptions to Allen’s proposal. One, there’s a desire by some Hopkinton residents to partially leave the district. And two, the Chariho Act can be interpreted as stating that a town within the Chariho school district cannot leave the district while it’s in debt – and that approving the $26 million bond would cause debt.

During Charlestown’s council meeting councilor John Craig agreed with Allen saying from his perspective, it does seem as though Hopkinton intends to partially leave the district at some point in the future.

The overall consensus of Charlestown’s council was to support the one-third payback plan. Though, the council postponed officially supporting the one-third payback plan until after the tri-town committee, which next meets on Thursday, March 15, expresses their support for the one-third payback plan.

The tri-town committee is comprised of two town councilors from each town – Harriet Allen and John Craig from Charlestown, Kevin Gosper and Douglas Tuthill from Richmond, and Vinnie Cordone and Beverly Kenney from Hopkinton.

“I don’t think withdrawal is a big deal. I think after when whoever crunches the numbers you’ll find that voters won’t want it,” said Hopkinton councilor Sylvia Thompson. “It’s true many people would want their fifth and sixth graders back locally, but not with leaving Chariho. People are just so tired that they don’t have the time to serve on the school committee. We didn’t have enough people to run for the Chariho school committee, what makes you think we’ll be able to run our own school committee?”

On the flip side of Allen’s proposal, bond counsel Karen Grande of the law firm Edward Angell Palmer & Dodge out of Providence told the school committee at their Feb. 27 meeting that amending the Chariho Act to allow Chariho towns with debt to leave the district is unnecessary.

However, after the meeting Grande said, “I haven’t looked at it (the Chariho Act) in a few years” and she couldn’t speak to the issues a town withdrawing from the Chariho school district might have.

Along with hearing Grande, the school committee voted 10-0 to approve the state legislation asking for permission to issue $26 million in bonds, and to amend the Chariho Act so the three towns can share the costs at one-third each. Committee member and Hopkinton resident Bill Felkner was the one abstention.

Grande said that the ballot would have one question on the 26 million bonds and the one-third payment plan for the towns.

“I don’t think this bond is going to pass,” said Felkner. “Maintenance should be a budget item. We haven’t addressed these maintenance issues and now we need to put it in a bond. I just don’t think that maintenance should be a bond issue. It sets a bad precedence.”

Felkner had previously voted against the building plan, which includes adding three new classrooms to the Switch Road campus middle school, because Hopkinton would be prevented from withdrawing its fifth and sixth graders back to the elementary school.

“Our students’ performance is so low and our costs are so high that parents just want their kids back on a local level,” said Felkner. He also cited a survey done by the Chariho Building Committee in 2004 that stated 71 percent of residents of the three Chariho towns want their fifth and sixth graders back at a local level.

Grande told the school committee if a Chariho town with debt from the bond sought to leave the district they’d have to make “provisions” to pay off their share of the debt before leaving.

“It’s not that they (the towns) have to pay off every cent. They have to make provisions that the bond will be paid off,” said Grande.

Grande explained towns would have to put aside a certain amount of money in a trust fund for payments, and to maintain those payments on schedule.

After the meeting, Grande and Ricci were unsure how much a town would have to put aside before being able to partially leave the Chariho district.

“The town still has to come up with the money, then put it into a trust and pay it,” said Felkner.

Grande said that the next step would be for the town councils of each town to pass “memorializing resolutions” supporting the legislation. The legislation needs the approval of all of Chariho’s town councils. If the town councils approve the legislation it would then go to the Rhode Island General Assembly for approval.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28 a subcommittee of the Board of Regents began reviewing the school construction application for state aid. This subcommittee will recommend if the bond project will qualify under the old reimbursement regulations of 56 percent for new construction and 60 percent for rehabilitation work — to the full board of regents at a March 22 meeting.

Ricci said he’s confident that Chariho will be able to get the 56 and 60 percent state aid.

Previously, school committee members expressed fears that those percentages would drop if there were delay in the building proposal being made.

[NOTE] The proposal overlooks a fundamental problem – the bond still tries to create more space at the Middle School, something unnecessary if 5th and 6th graders are pulled.  There is also some issues with the RYSE program, but more on that later.

You can read the Chariho Act here.  I said a trust would need to be set up because that is what the attorney had said.  However, the Act says this (it seems pretty explicit to me but I’ll defer to the lawyer, that’s what we (you) pay them for):

Sec. 18. (1) No member town shall withdraw from the district until bonded indebtedness

incurred in accordance with the provisions of section 1 herein has been fully paid and

discharged.”

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4 Comments »

  1. I guess my wife and I aren’t alone in our amazement that young children in 5th and 6th grade are not even being considered in this latest bond charade.

    I will never vote for any bond that expands the Chariho complex without a compelling reason to do so.

    According to Mr. Felkner, student population is shrinking, and additional infrastructure at the Chariho site virtually assures us that these poor children will never again reap the benefits of local education as we ship them from all corners of the tri-towns.

    Not only will I not vote for the bond, I will talk about it with every local voter I come in contact with in my day to day life. If any Chariho administrators read this site, get your act together and give us a proposal that is affordable and puts the needs of our children before the fantasies of school administrators.

    Mr. Felkner, I ask you again, will the school committee consider mandating that future proposals put forth by the school administration be inclusive of many different perspectives. Rather than one proposal of build, build, build and spend, spend, spend…can the administrators be required to offer several proposals and scenarios? They can feel free to publically support the one they like best, but at least then we will have options.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 11, 2007 @ 12:10 am | Reply

  2. “I will talk about it with every local voter I come in contact with in my day to day life.”

    Bravo – this is exactly what is needed.

    To answer your question about giving the voters a choice – One town council member asked Mr. Ricci if we could present the bond in 3 parts. One for RYSE, one for Middle-School expansion and one for maintenance. Let the voters decide.

    He was told that this is not possible. I would suggest it is not possible now that the paperwork has gone to the State House, but it is indeed possible.

    This is like when Chariho responded to the towns’ requests to pull their young children. We were given a $99M bond as our only alternative. Just looking at Hopkinton, why would we need to create a new building when we had plenty of room (we were still using the 1904 building at that time). It appears to me that they sabotaged the plan with that enormous expansion.

    Mr. Ricci will have a letter in today’s Westerly Sun. I will post it here and post my response. Please share it with as many as possible.

    Comment by cspf — March 12, 2007 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

  3. I will print out both Mr. Pini’s letter and your response here. I do not read the Sun, so if you don’t post it here, or at least summarize it, I will not have access.

    Not sure how often you interact with Hopkinton citizens, but I’d be interested in your opinion on the mood in regard to the bond issue? Although I will hand out whatever information you can provide, my Hopkinton network is not vast because of my travel schedule.

    Perhaps if we can blow-up this latest attempt to gouge taxpayers, the administration will get the message that we prefer choices.

    Sorry to say, but I don’t trust the Chariho system to put our children’s needs before their own desires. The TERC catastrophe is just more proof of their blase attitude about educating Hopkinton’s children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 12, 2007 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  4. The vote for the bond is done on a town-by-town basis. So if Richmond and Charlestown both approve it (something I doubt will happen) but Hopkinton votes no, the bond fails.

    I am hesitant to speak for the town, but I can say that every parent I have spoken with is opposed to keeping their young kids on the main campus. Since the bond will expand the Middle School, it is unlikely they will support it.

    I also have some fundamental problems with the bond. I do not believe that maintenance should be a bond item. These are budget issues. Furthermore, the whole reason for the tax cap was to put pressure on school boards to deal with runaway contract spending. If we eliminate that pressure by putting items in a bond, we will never face the music and say “no” to union demands.

    And finally there are the issues with RYSE. I am not convinced it is a good program, or that it saves us money, or, even if it were good and cost effective, that it should be near our other kids. The building plan is for 100 students, we only have 42. Considering the fact that enrolment is declining, it appears that Chariho wants to attract students from outside the district. I just am not convinced that troubled youth from other areas should be coming to our campus.

    Comment by cspf — March 12, 2007 @ 9:30 pm | Reply


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