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Derry voters to be asked about putting school department under town umbrella

Union Leader Correspondent

January 16. 2018 10:56PM

DERRY — Town councilors voted 7-0 late Tuesday night to send a non-binding referendum to voters this March asking to petition the legislature to grant authority for Derry to make the school district a department within town government.

Such a move would mean the education budget would be subject to the town tax cap, which officials say could result in savings for taxpayers.

If lawmakers accept the petition, it will return to Derry voters for approval through an amendment to the town charter.

The council decision did not come until 10:18 p.m., nearly four hours after the meeting began.

Given the hour, the councilors expedited discussion and immediately motioned for the referendum.

Councilors will need to file the measure with the town clerk’s office within 30 days so the referendum can appear on the March 13 Town Meeting ballot.

Debate on the subject has been ongoing for several months.

One of the options, which appeared relatively unpopular among councilors, was to seek voter approval to petition the legislature to see if Derry could become a city.

After some research, town officials determined Derry could absorb the school district while remaining a town form of government.

Town Administrator David Caron said the New Hampshire Municipal Association has advised Derry that the legislative branch can grant the authority to a town, though historically it has been reserved for city forms of government.

“Under either a town or city, if approved by the legislature, a local approval process would need to occur,” Caron said in a memo. “For a town, it would require voters to approve a simple charter amendment at a special or regular municipal election.”

Local and County Government Derry