Hampton School District Assets at Issue
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 24, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
HAMPTON -- The Hampton School Board is defending its decision to not go after it's share of the physical assets in its divorce from School Administrative Unit 21 as it goes out on its own become SAU 90, starting July 1.
The board responded last week to criticism from Hampton Budget Committee — particularly from member Sandra Nickerson — for it's decision to not claim the physical assets of SAU 21, including its share of the cost of the office building.
School Board Chairman Rosemary Lamers said Tuesday, June 14, the board did not pursue recouping a portion of the worth of the physical assets because the Hampton School District has no ownership of the SAU 21 building.
The board, however, did go after the financial assets of SAU 21, mainly Hampton's portion of the unreserved fund balance as of June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Nickerson — who was a former School Board member — submitted a letter as a concerned taxpayer to the state Department of Education regarding the School Board's decision regarding the physical assets.
She claimed the state laws that govern withdrawal call for the withdrawal committee to address the disposition of a school administrative unit's assets, which in Hampton's case was not done.
New SAU 90 Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said the state Department of Education looked into Nickerson's concerns because the issue is important, not only for Hampton's withdrawal but in any future cases in which towns wish to withdraw from school administrative units.
Murphy said the department's opinion on the matter was that any claim Hampton School District had to real or personal property from its decision to withdrawal is a legal matter between Hampton School district and the other school districts.
"The state Department of Education has no authority in its ability to require any school district to go after or recoup any losses," said Murphy, reading from a letter from the commission. "It's a legal matter outside jurisdiction of the state Board of Education."
All records regarding the ownership of the SAU 21 building, Murphy said, show that it belongs to the Winnacunnet Cooperative School District.
Murphy said the reason why the SAU 21 office is owned by Winnacunnet is because state law RSA 194 C prohibits SAUs from constructing or purchasing buildings.
Voters of Winnacunnet Cooperative School District approved the expenditures in 1968 and the district also received building aid from the state.
"We have no records of a contractual agreement with other school districts contributing to the construction of the building or agreement that the other districts would have claim in the building or its contents if they decide to leave the SAU," Murphy said.
Lamers said she was surprised the issue arose since Nickerson served on the two previous withdrawal committees, which both noted in their reports that Hampton had no stake in the SAU 21 office building.
Lamers said the SAU 21 Joint Board agreed to give Hampton its share of the unreserved fund balance back in November of 2010.
Hampton's portion of the fund — which as of July 1, 2010 was worth $236,144 — will be distributed using the same formula under which Hampton paid into the SAU 21 budget.
As part of the Joint Board vote, Hampton agreed to forgo its share of the physical assets — i.e. pencils, erasers, and eight-year-old computers — in the SAU 21 office.
Lamers said officials did that because the items had little value and officials want to keep a good relationship with SAU 21 going forward as Hampton students will still be attending Winnacunnet.