Temple unlikely to hold special Town Meeting on ConVal withdrawal

Temple Select Board Chair Bill Ezell.

Temple Select Board Chair Bill Ezell. —STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-30-2024 8:31 AM

Modified: 05-03-2024 1:28 PM


After low response to a notice on the town’s website, Temple Select Board Chair Bill Ezell said it was unlikely that the town would hold a special Town Meeting to vote on a feasibility study regarding withdrawal from the ConVal School District.

“Somebody suggested we hold a special Town Meeting and file [a feasibility study] also, so we could participate with [Dublin and Francestown] in the withdrawal,” Ezell said at the April 23 board meeting.

Temple was one of four ConVal towns – Bennington, Francestown and Dublin were the others – that potentially would have had their elementary schools closed to address budget and enrollment concerns, as recommended by educational consulting firm Prismatic, endorsed by the School Board and presented to ConVal voters in March. However, the proposed change to the district’s Articles of Agreement that would have allowed the board to close those schools ultimately did not pass, receiving only 45% of the vote when two-thirds was required.

In response, both Dublin and Francestown voted to direct the School Board to initiate a feasibility study on potentially withdrawing from the district.

Temple Select Board assistant Carole Singelais said there were 12 responses to the website notice, with only two or three potentially interested in learning more about the issue before they committed to a special Town Meeting.

“I don’t think that makes any sense,” Ezell said. “We’ve got three more elections this year – so a special Town Meeting? Nobody’s going to come.”

Ezell said that if there was enough interest, the issue could be placed on next year’s warrant for deliberation at 2025 Town Meeting.

Resident Peter Allen voiced his support for a special Town Meeting.

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“It’s essentially important that we discuss the possibility of instituting a feasibility study and holding a Town Meeting – even if we don’t do it,” he said. “There’s going to be a fairly massive budget request next year – in the millions – and if we don’t institute the feasibility study, we will be obliged and bound by the bond.”

Allen noted that the feasibility study wouldn’t necessarily mean Temple would withdraw, but it would give them the option to do so without a high tax obligation to ConVal.

The board had initially discussed potentially holding a special Town Meeting after Temple’s representative on the ConVal School Board, Jim Kingston, informed board members about some upcoming district improvement projects to be bonded in 2025. If Temple wanted to withdraw, there would be a “window of lower liability for the town” if it did so before projects were bonded, according to Kingston.

However, Ezell said April 23, “It’s very unclear if filing [the feasibility study] would get you out of the funding.”

Allen said that if there wasn’t enough interest for a special Town Meeting, the Select Board should consider holding a forum, where Kingston could break down the feasibility study and withdrawal process because it is a complex issue.

“I would recommend you guys have a forum,” he said. “Mr. Kingston has all this data on this – I think it’s important for him to make a presentation to the town about the issues.”

Ezell reiterated that a Town Meeting was unlikely, but “you do bring up a valid point,” he said to Allen. “If Dublin and Francestown leave the district, that money has to get made up somewhere.”

Ezell concluded the discussion by saying he would speak to Kingston about the possibility of a presentation.