Croydon school budget set for revote after it was slashed at Town Meeting

  • Angi Beaulieu, a former schoolboard member, presents a petition to the Croydon, N.H. Schoolboard at the town hall on Monday, March 21, 2022, asking for a revote on the $1.7 million budget for the 2022-23 school year originally presented to voters at the annual school meeting on March 12. State law would require 50% of the town's 565 voters to participate in a vote to overturn the $800,000 budget approved at the annual meeting after a surprise amendment from Selectboard Member Ian Underwood. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2022 10:41:45 PM
Modified: 5/4/2022 10:40:19 PM

CROYDON — Voters have been asked to convene at 9 on Saturday morning to consider whether to overturn a drastic cut in education funding approved on March 12.

New Hampshire law makes it a challenge to bring a school budget up for reconsideration. Below is an explanation of what has brought Croydon to this pass and of the process for the new vote:

Budget cut

This winter, the Croydon School Board proposed to voters a 2022-23 budget of $1.7 million to fund the K-4 Croydon Village School and to pay tuition for Croydon students in grades five through 12, who have school choice for middle and high school. The proposed budget was $98,000 higher than the current year’s spending.

On March 12, turnout at the annual school meeting was very low. A motion was made from the floor by resident Ian Underwood to reduce the school budget to $800,000; it was approved by a vote of 20-14.

He wrote a pamphlet that he distributed at the meeting and also posted online “in case anyone else wants to try something similar in another district.” Underwood asserted that since two private schools — one in Sunapee and one in Newport — charge around $10,000 for tuition, Croydon should be able to educate all of its schoolchildren for a similar per-pupil sum. He arrived at his budget total by multiplying that total by 80, roughly the town’s student count.

Underwood is the husband of Jody Underwood, the chairwoman of the Croydon School Board, and a supporter of the Free State Project, an effort to foster libertarian policies in New Hampshire.

The impact

In meetings after the March vote, Croydon school officials have said that the only way to provide schooling for Croydon students for $800,000 is through private companies that provide online “microschooling.”

Even then, the district would fall far short of what families are accustomed to, school board members said. About $973,000 of the $1.7 million budget proposal was for tuition payments to both public and private schools for students in grades 5-12. Without sufficient money in the budget, it would force parents to pay out of pocket to send their children to public schools in Newport, Sunapee and elsewhere, both for education and technical education.

Jody Underwood has said she didn’t know about her husband’s plan to slash the budget until days before the meeting. Now, she and fellow School Board member Aaron McKeon are urging residents to keep the $800,000 budget. The third, Kevin Morris, has said he’d like to see school spending capped at the current year’s budget amount of a little over $1.6 million.

The petition

Croydon residents petitioned to reconsider the school budget, and the school board set a May 7 date for the vote. Supporters of the revote have set up a website, standupforcroydon.com.

Rules for the reconsideration are complicated. Under New Hampshire law, a budget can be brought up for revote only if more than 50% of the voter checklist shows up in person. The vote will be held at Camp Coniston, at 24 Camp Road in Croydon, the only venue in town large enough for such a gathering.

When the petition for the revote was filed, there were 565 voters on the checklist, which means that for a binding vote to be held on Saturday, a quorum of 283 voters has to attend.

However, since the election date was set, another 52 people have registered to vote in Croydon, Town Clerk Kristi McKeon said Wednesday. Under state law, those voters can show up on Saturday, but the number required for a quorum on Saturday remains at 283.

Eligible Croydon residents who wish to register to vote can do so at Camp Coniston and are encouraged to be on hand by 8 a.m., McKeon said.

Supporters of the revote are encouraging everyone who’s attending to arrive early so they can check in before the meeting starts at 9.

At the meeting, it will be possible to bring the original budget back up for consideration. It also will be possible to amend it.

A final decision on whatever budget figure voters settle on will be by majority vote of those present.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.




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