SANDOWN – When people find fault with their school system in Sandown it’s not strange to find a person questioning what it would take to get out of the Timberlane Regional School District, but typically they don’t go past that first step.
Not so for Tony Piemonte, who is heading up a citizen’s petition to ask the Timberlane Regional School Board to investigate what it would take for Sandown to split from the four-town district. Also part of Timberlane are Atkinson, Danville and Plaistow.
It was an easy business getting the 25 required signatures for the petition, explained Piemonte, but as the snow dwindled on Friday, Jan. 9, he was in the Sandown town hall parking lot getting a few more. He would like the article on the March warrant.
Despite the winter weather about 15 residents stopped by to sign the petition.
Piemonte said he’s just looking to find out the basics of a split, and the petition doesn’t opine whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it only seeks information.
“This is just to see what it would take. Nothing more. Nothing less,” said Piemonte. “This isn’t a big deal. It’s just asking.”
The article reads, “Shall the Town of Sandown, New Hampshire direct the Timberlane Regional School Board to conduct a study of the feasibility and suitability of the withdrawal of Sandown from the Timberlane Regional School District and to be completed before October 1, 2015 as per the provisions of RSA 195:25.”
For the town to withdraw from the district a separate vote among all sending towns would have to be taken.
The law cited in the petition states that the committee to investigate the issue would be comprised of a school board member from each town, a member of the selectmen from each town and other members so appointed. The committee has 180 days to report its findings to the state board of education, along with either a statement that withdrawal is not suitable or a withdrawal plan. If the committee determines that withdrawal is not suitable, a town also has the right to submit a minority report at the same time.
Piemonte said it was about a year and a half ago when the idea first occurred to him. Watching the school district’s operations, and seeing the kinds of tax increases incumbent in those operations, it appeared to Piemonte that something wasn’t working for Sandown.
But with kids who went through the school system and nieces and nephews in school now, Piemonte is quick to say that he isn’t against education, he just wonders if things could be done better and at a lower cost.
Piemonte is far from the only one questioning the district these days, as the education there and its cost is a regular conversation topic in Sandown, which has seen its local school tax rate escalate in recent years.
Stopping by to put her name on the petition, retired teacher Tina Buckley said that in her current job as a Realtor she was seeing the broader effects of a school-driven high tax rate. Her homes in Danville and Sandown aren’t selling these days. Buckley said that when she tells prospective home buyers the kinds of property taxes they’ll pay on a home in Sandown, they’re put off and start looking elsewhere. When the taxes get as high as they are, homes have to be sold for less money to compete with towns with lower tax rates, explained Buckley.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” she said.