On. Jan. 27 SAD 44 proposed a draft agreement that would transfer ownership of the Andover Elementary School to the Town of Andover, as an alternative to the town withdrawing from the district. Andover voters will vote by referendum March 18 on whether to re-start the withdrawal process, after a Jan. 7 vote fell just short of the 2/3 majority needed to withdraw. Selectmen initially voted to also include an AES transfer proposal on the March ballot, but then removed it out of concern there is not enough time to adequately prepare a final agreement. Below is the DRAFT that was presented Jan. 27. More information on the issue can be found in the Citizen print and e-editions.
Proposal for Alternative to Andover Withdrawal
Jan. 23, 2103
A Draft Summary of the Option Discussed at the 1/21/14 Meeting with Representatives from Andover – Subject to Further Adjustments and Review
Attendance: Keith Farrington, Paula Lee, Marshall Meisner, Marcel Polak, Carol Everett and Dave Murphy
Note: SAD #44 has suggested this process instead of the withdrawal process, and not in addition to the withdrawal process. SAD #44 suggests that the Town hold an open town meeting to authorize these negotiations, and that the Town consider both processes as competing measures on the referendum ballot required by section 1466(1). If the Town approves the filing of a withdrawal petition at that referendum, the SAD #44 board will engage in that process. If the Town approves both processes at the referendum, however, SAD #44 will engage only in the withdrawal process with the Town in accordance with applicable statute, and will not engage in this proposed alternative process.
Recognizing that keeping the elementary school open is of prime concern for the Town of Andover, a new and unique pathway to that goal is being explored as a possible option for consideration. This draft proposal addresses the possibility of keeping the elementary school open without creating an additional burden on the remainder of the school district. This proposal also avoids the previous concern by our attorneys that the school board may lack the legal authority to enter into a long term agreement not to close a school. This concern is avoided because it utilizes a lease structure, and the Board does have legal authority to enter into a long term lease agreement for a specified period of time. In further discussion with our attorney after the January 21 meeting, it appears that the lease structure in practical effect would allow the school to remain open for the period agreed to in the lease.
The draft option is outlined below and is subject to change:
1. Transfer of School Ownership To Andover. The district would turn the current Andover Elementary School building back to the town as of July 1, 2014. The town would agree to accept the facility at a town meeting held in March.
2. Lease of School by Town to District. The district would enter into a lease agreement with the Town of Andover to use the facility for a set period of time of not more than ___ years (i.e. 3 years). The town would assume responsibility for the costs of all capital improvement projects to the building. Other than safety and/or state and federal requirements that would be required to be made, the decision to make these capital improvements to the school building would be at the discretion of the town. The costs of all capital repairs and improvements to the facility and grounds would be borne by the town, while regular upkeep and maintenance costs would be borne by the district.
3. District to Pay Base Cost of Operating School; Andover to Pay Excess. The district would commit up a specific amount toward the operation of the school each year. This figure would be determined for each year by:
a. Considering the actual number of students enrolled in the school on the previous October 1 census report and;
b. Multiplying that enrollment number by the state approved maximum allowable elementary per pupil cost in place at the time of that census.
c. This would be the amount the district would apply towards operating the school. (Example: If 30 students were enrolled in the school on October 1, 2013 and the maximum allowable per pupil amount was $7,300 per student, the district would contribute $219,000 toward the cost of operating the school for the coming 2014-2015 year.)
d. This amount would be deducted from the previous year’s total operational expenses for the school. That figure would be determined based on the 2012-2013 school year expended budget. For the purposes of this scenario, if the total cost of operating the school was $350,000, the district would commit $219,000 towards that amount, leaving Andover with a cost of $131,000 plus capital improvement costs.
e. That $131,000 would compare with the additional $140,000 that the town is currently contributing.
f. The town would be aware of that number as early as November and in enough time to plan accordingly for town budget purposes.
4. Comparison to Current Fiscal Year. In FY 14, Andover spent $492,000 plus an additional $140,000 for K-12 education. In the above scenario, these amounts would likely remain very similar but Andover would now also assume the capital improvement costs for the building.
5. Comparison to Andover’s Costs if it Withdraws. If the town dedicated $100,000 for capital improvements to the facility, the total increased cost to the town in the coming year would be $100,000 more than the current year but still hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the projected cost of operating as a stand-alone district. It should be noted that the proposed Andover budget of $1.2+ million (plus approximately $250,000 for start up costs) did not include any funding for capital improvements. Comparing both scenarios, the cost of this option would be approximately 50% of the projected budget if the town decided to withdraw.
6. Facilitation of Long Term Planning. All parties realize that this facility is likely to go back to the town at some point in the future. This option allows the town to begin planning for and making whatever improvements they decide are in the best long-term interest of the town, while also being assured of retaining an elementary school in their community for a specified period of time.
7. School Board Representation Maintained. Andover would also maintain its current level of representation on the MSAD 44 School Board, rather than losing input about the education of approximately 2/3 of their students currently enrolled at the middle and high school level.
8. Agreement to Operate School for Term of Lease. This option would provide for a specific lease term, with possible renewal rights. The Lease would provide that the Board as tenant agrees to maintain an operating school for Andover students unless mutually agreed by both parties. Each party would also have certain rights of termination in extreme circumstances with sufficient advance notice to the other party.
9. Costs of Implementation. If it is determined that this is an option worth pursuing, the parties to negotiate and agree upon a base legal budget required to finalize the agreement. Andover will reimburse the district’s attorney’s fees up to the agreed base amount.
It should be restated that this is a draft proposal. These terms and additional details will require additional discussion and negotiation.