School Board OKs Andover withdrawal agreement
The SAD 44 School Board Monday approved an agreement with Andover for the town to potentially withdraw from the district.
The unanimous vote took place after a 45-minute executive session and no public discussion.
Andover and SAD 44 worked out what had been the key sticking point over months of negotiations - Andover parents’ freedom to choose where their students attend middle and high school.
SAD 44 had stood firm on requiring 90 percent of older Andover students to attend Telstar for the next 10 years because, according to the district, losing many Andover students would cost SAD 44 significant money in lost tuition.
The 2013 state tuition rate for non-district students was $8,873 per student. Andover’s K-12 enrollment is approximately 85.
Under its withdrawal plan, Andover would educate K-5 students at the Andover Elementary School and tuition older students to secondary schools in the region.
If the town ultimately approves withdrawal, the effective date would be July 1, 2014.
School directors agreed to allow Andover parents to have the choice on tuition students and the parties agreed to various other tradeoffs, according to Supt. Dave Murphy.
For example, he said, for the second half of the 10-year tuitioning period the town would pay a “debt service factor” for any newly-incurred debt service for Telstar or construction projects. Such outlays would benefit Andover students at the complex.
The amount paid would be a percentage of the debt service payments in those years equal to the percentage of Telstar students who are Andover residents.
Another example of a tradeoff, said Murphy, is an agreement by Andover to pay for one of three buses that it will get from SAD 44. In initial negotiations early this year, Andover asked for four buses at no cost, and the district countered with two.
With the negotiated changes in place, said Murphy, “I think it’s a fair agreement.”
The number 6.77 percent figures prominently in other aspects of the agreement. It is a five-year average of Andover's contribution to the total local share of annual budgets. Among its applications:
Andover will pay SAD 44 a lump sum toward debt service still owed on the Telstar track, sewer and air quality/energy projects. The figure will represent 6.77 percent of the remaining principal balance on June 30, 2014, or $148,455, plus 6.77 percent of accrued interest. If SAD 44 becomes liable for future legal claims or federal audits from incidents prior to the withdrawal date, Andover would pay 6.77 percent of costs, damages and other losses.
SAD 44 will pay Andover 6.77 percent of its audited undesignated fund balance as of June 30, 2014, and 6.77 percent of amounts withdrawn from the audited capital reserve balance for projects that are not at Telstar.
Andover will also be responsible for all costs of special education for its students, including special transportation costs, facilities modification costs and attorney fees incurred by SAD 44 in connection with disputes with third parties over delivery of special education services.
Other approvals, steps
The Andover Withdrawal Committee approved the plan at its weekly meeting on Sept. 22.
If the state Commissioner of Education approves the plan, SAD 44 will then schedule a public hearing on it. After final approval from the commissioner, Andover will hold a public hearing and then a vote on actual withdrawal, which if approved would be effective July 1, 2014. A 2/3 majority is required for approval.
SAD 44’s attorney for the withdrawal negotiations, William Stockmeyer, said Monday that while the state has 60 days to initially approve the plan towns often hear back within two or three weeks.
Andover Withdrawal Committee chair/selectman Susan Merrow could not be reached for comment by press time.
In another Andover-related matter, Murphy told the board that the fuel tank at the Andover Elementary School did not pass a recent integrity test and it must be removed by the end of August. In the meantime, he said, it must be monitored on a regular basis.
Following is a summary of the withdrawal agreement by SAD 44's attorney, William Stockmeyer:
On September 30, 2013, the MSAD 44 School Board approved the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the Andover Withdrawal Committee and providing for the proposed withdrawal of the Town of Andover from MSAD 44.
The Agreement must now be submitted to the Commissioner of Education for approval. After conditional approval by the Commissioner, the Commissioner will direct MSAD 44 to hold a public hearing on the Agreement. The Agreement must then be finally approved by the Commissioner, who will then direct the Town of Andover to hold a referendum vote on whether to withdraw from MSAD 44 under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. It is estimated that the earliest the referendum vote could occur is late November or early December, but the timing depends upon the amount of time taken at each step along the way.
The statute directs that approval of the withdrawal agreement by Andover requires a 2/3 vote, with no minimum threshold number of voters for the approval to be effective. This is a different statutory requirement than the one that applies when a town seeks to withdraw from a newly formed RSU.
If approved by Andover, the effective date of withdrawal is July 1, 2014. Andover will be responsible to transition to a municipal school unit, including electing a school committee, selecting a superintendent of schools, and planning a budget.
The withdrawal agreement provides for the education of Andover middle school and secondary school students at Telstar on a non-exclusive basis for ten years, assigns MSAD 44 employees at Andover Elementary School to Andover’s responsibility, and allocates assets and liabilities between the parties. The major provisions of the Agreement may be summarized as follows:
- Tuition Agreement (non-exclusive) for ten years and related costs.
- In year one, the statute requires MSAD 44 to accept all Andover middle and secondary students that would have attended Telstar had Andover not withdrawn. The tuition rate is set by formulas in the statute that are indexed to MSAD 44’s costs for its middle school students and for its high school students.
- In years two through ten, Andover middle school and high school students may attend Telstar. The middle school tuition rate is set in the same manner as in year one; the high school tuition rate is a statewide average tuition rate.
- Andover will also pay all special education costs for its students at Telstar.
- Should MSAD 44 engage in any construction or renovation projects for Telstar, a debt service factor will be charged to Andover based upon the percentage of Telstar students that are Andover residents. This charged is waived, however, in Andover’s first five years. Thus, this charge, if any, will apply in years five through ten following the effective date of withdrawal.
- Andover is responsible to pay for its own costs of transportation. Andover has agreed to pick up MSAD 44 students on the route to Telstar at no cost to MSAD 44. This is to the extent of available room on a 72 passenger bus.
- Andover agrees to cooperate to become a member of Vocational Region 9; Andover will pay costs to the vocational region as a member.
- The ten year agreement is non-exclusive in that Andover middle and high school students may attend schools other than Telstar.
- Andover and MSAD 44, however, agree to operate in a “sister-school” relationship; Andover will permit its students to attend a Telstar orientation/visitation and will permit MSAD 44 to hold an open house at Andover Elementary for parents of transitioning students; Andover will transfer students and student records to Telstar unless a parent initiates a request to attend another school of that parent’s choice.
- MSAD 44 Employees at Andover Elementary School.
- Listed employees at Andover Elementary (including one part time bus driver position) will become employees of Andover as of the effective date of the Agreement.
- Andover assumes responsibility as the employer under existing collective bargaining agreements as to those employees. Andover must be responsible for negotiating any successor collective bargaining agreements.
- Central office personnel and employees at other MSAD 44 schools remain the responsibility of MSAD 44.
- Allocation of Assets and Liabilities.
- Andover will receive the following assets:
- Andover Elementary School and contents (equipment, furniture, etc.)
- Three designated school buses.
- MSAD 44 will pay Andover 6.77% of MSAD 44’s audited unencumbered general fund balance, as of June 30, 2014.
- Under a “wait and see” approach, MSAD 44 will not share its reserve fund balance as of June 30,2014, to the extent that fund is expended on Telstar, which will be attended by Andover students. However, if and to the extent that MSAD 44 expends that reserve fund balance on its other schools, it will pay Andover 6.77%.
- Andover assumes the following liabilities:
- On the effective date, Andover will make a one-time payment to MSAD 44 in an amount equal to 6.77% of MSAD 44’s outstanding debt for Telstar projects, including the 2012 energy project financing, the 2004 track/auditorium project financing, and the 2003 water/sewer project financing. This payment will be $148,455 plus accrued interest. Andover will make no future contribution to these debts.
- Andover will pay fair market value for one of the three school buses transferred; the other two are at no charge to Andover.
- Andover will be responsible for a portion of MSAD 44’s service contracts that include Andover Elementary School. The vendors, Honeywell and BEU, have both agreed to “split” their respective MSAD 44 contracts into separate agreements.
- Andover assumes 6.77% of MSAD 44’s liability for future legal claims or federal audits, if any, that relate to periods before the effective date of withdrawal.
- Andover is responsible for any future employment contracts it may need, including a superintendent and any other administrative or central office positions.
- If debt is issued after the Effective Date for Andover Elementary School, Andover must approve and issue that debt on its own; the parties will cooperate with the necessary renovation work prior to the Effective Date.