Monday, March 11, 2013

Voting Guide for the 2013 Oyster River Cooperative School District Election

ORCSDcleanslate busy voter guide: Vote for Kenneth Rotner and Thomas Newkirk for school board, and YES on all the school district articles. Lee voters, please vote for Scott Bugbee for Selectman.

2013 ORCSDcleanslate Voter Guide

This is my second annual biased yet informative voting guide, this time for the upcoming Tuesday March 12, 2013 ORCSD election. That's tomorrow, people.  If you just want to see the ballot, click here.

Election Day is this Tuesday, March 12th, 2013. Vote at your regular polling place. Depending on which town you live in, that's the Lee Public Safety Complex (7am-7pm), Madbury Town Hall (11am-7:30pm), or Oyster River High School in Durham (7am-7pm). US citizens at least 18 years old who live in the district (even college students) are eligible to vote. If you're not already registered, you can register at the polls on election day. It helps to bring a driver's license and proof of address (utility bill) to register, but if you don't you can sign something swearing you've told the truth about these. Voter ID laws are still in effect in New Hampshire, but if you forget your ID you can sign a form swearing who you are. Here is FORE's election information.

As always, voters in Madbury, Lee, and Durham see identical school district ballots. There are two at-large school board seats up for election this time. (An at-large seat is one that may be filled by someone from any of the three towns.)  Three people are running, and every voter in the district gets to choose two of the three. ORCSDcleanslate has endorsed Kenny Rotner and Tom Newkirk.

Let's go through the ballot:

Article 1 elects the moderator, and there's only one person running. I'm sure he'll win. As the elected official whose sole job is to moderate the deliberative session, you may recall that I don't think he did that very well this year. I have seen Mr. Laughton being official at the polling places on election day, so maybe there's a bit more to the job.

Article 2 elects the school board members. Voters get to choose two of the three. I'm voting for Kenny Rotner (website, endorsement) who has been a doctor in the district for over a quarter century, an involved parent of his daughter who completed K through 12 entirely in the district (she's now a freshman in college) and an engaged citizen who has been to more school board meetings than half the current board. I'm also voting to re-elect Tom Newkirk (unofficial website), world-renowned expert on boys literacy, who was elected last March to serve out the remainder of Ann W.'s term, and now is running for a full three-year term. I'm glad Carl Piedmont (website) has decided to get involved, but he may have to wait for a year when the other candidates are not so incredibly well-qualified to get his seat on the board.

The candidates didn't disagree about all that much explicitly.  The race has divided along last year's lines, with the three longer-serving board members and hateful tweeter Jim Kach (who was voted off the board last year) siding with Mr. Piedmont, while the four freshmen have not indicated a preference (except that Tom Newkirk is for himself).   When creationism in schools was raised, the debate between the candidates was minimal (Carl Piedmont denied he would impose religion in schools, the other candidates, who presumably concur, did not comment) and instead focused on how Bob Barth, who isn't running for anything, asked the question.   Now football has emerged as an issue, but the candidates haven't made their positions known.  We're left to guess: Carl's older boy is on an athletic scholarship, Kenny's an MD.  It's not much to go on.

So in the end, I've gone with the candidates we all know. Tom and Kenny have long histories with the district.  We know what to expect with them, and we know it will be great.

Article 3 is the ORESPA contract (office and custodial staff). It looks like the board negotiated a good deal with ORESPA and I'm voting YES. Thanks, ORESPA.

Article 4 raises $40,000 for Sustainability Committee initiatives. This was the most contentious article at the Deliberative Session, where an amendment to remove the $20,000 in stipends lost 58 to 60 after a tedious debate and vote (story). I'm voting YES. This is probably the last time the sustainability budget will appear as a separate warrant article -- it will likely be folded into the general fund next year. Check out the Green Oyster, the Sustainability Committee's great website.  FORE has a good piece on the Sustainability Committee and this warrant article.

Article 5 creates the reserve fund. The 2.5% of "net assessment" worked out to about 2% of the budget this year, $770,000. This article is essentially permission for the school district to start the fund. If it's approved, each year there's any unspent money, the board can decide how much goes into the fund and how much is used to lower next year's taxes. They can't put more than $770,000 in the account total (or whatever 2.5% works out to.) To be clear, that's not a one year contribution limit, but a limit on the total amount of money in the fund. I think the article is being sold to the voters in a bit of a condescending way (the fund will "smooth out" your taxes) but a rainy day fund is a good idea, and this one is pretty small, so I'm voting YES. This article will increase taxes each year after money is added to the fund, and decrease taxes years when the fund money is spent.

Article 6 is the vote to raise $38.8 million to pay for schools. If YES wins, we raise about $270,000 (0.7%) more than if NO wins. This represents a 1.6% rise in the top line over last year (article), mostly due to retirement cost shifting from the state. However taxes are going up around 4.6% due to a reduction in revenue from state and federal sources, as well as from an end to the 3 year spending-down of a $2.2 million fund balance in FY10. I'm voting YES.

The Deliberative Session was split 50/50 along the old lines, as indicated by the sustainability amendment vote. Yet every one of those people sat on their hands when given the opportunity to change these amounts in article 6. I think they were there, like I was, to vote against any attempts to change the board's budget. I think it was a remarkable show of community unity, demonstrating that the board elected last year really has brought the community together.

How it ends

FORE usually posts the election results as soon as they're available.  I'll post them later in the night.  Last year the election results were announced at the high school sometime after 9pm on election day.

- Dean Rubine, Lee

P.S.  Lee voters, please vote for Scott Bugbee for selectman and keep the lawbreaking former school board chairman Henry Brackett off the Lee Select Board.


  1. OK, so as I drove around today doing sign maintenance, I was struck by the location of signs for the various candidates for OR School Board. The cliché “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. To the point – signs for Carl Piedmont can be seen in many of the same yards that displayed signs of Jim Kach and Henry Brackett last year and Ann Lane and Megan Turnbull the year before (and “fill in the blank” the year before and the year before and …). Anticipating the spin some might try to apply to this observation, let me qualify – I am not suggesting that Carl (at least I’m not a doctor) Piedmont shares the same views across the board as this rogues gallery. However, this does say that the same people who thought Brackett, Kach, Lane, Turnbull et. al. best represented their views and positions on ORCSD issues now feel that Mr. Piedmont is that candidate. Draw your own conclusions from this. For me it says loud and clear “VOTE NEWKIRK AND ROTNER !!!”

  2. Well, it may not be Mr. Piedmont's fault that he was endorsed by Turnbull, Lane, Butts, and Kach. Also, like the justices of the Warren court, he could "go rogue" and not do anything that his backers want him to do. (See "The Brethren," if you haven't read that book about fifty times, as we have. I think Dean has TWO bathtub copies.)

    I can say that Newkirk and Rotner are excellent candidates, and they are very familiar faces at the School Board, making them known quantities. They are thoughtful intelligent people and they really do care about our schools. Even if they are doctors.