Volinsky, Tobin to hold talks on education funding

Monitor staff
Published: 1/16/2019 4:43:39 PM

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and attorney John Tobin have presented talks on the state’s education funding system to more than 1,000 taxpayers in the past six months.

The lawyers in the historic Claremont lawsuit have traversed the state, from Berlin to Nashua, to talk about how education funding works and what can be done to fix it, Volinsky said.

“I think people are tired of the overburden that results in the property tax – I think people are willing to talk about it more,” he said. “They want to see change.”

Now, they are presenting Thursday at Belmont High School – their 11th school presentation – and to the New Hampshire Legislature. Volinksy and Tobin will be presenting in Belmont at 6 p.m. and earlier in the day to the House at 3 p.m.

He said they will be taking an educational approach to the issue – and setting some recommendations for lawmakers.

“We are intent on keeping the attention on this issue and encouraging them to take some very specific actions quickly to keep the problem from getting worse,” he said.

Volinsky said they have four steps they are recommending to the Legislature to start solving the problem. The first step is to stop the cuts to stabilization aid – now four percent a year. Stabilization aid was an additional source of funding that was meant to bolster the state’s most property-poor districts.

The second would be to restore the last few years of cuts to stabilization that have already happened. In places like Franklin, that’s half a million dollars in aid, combining that with the loss of adequacy money. Franklin and Pittsfield, another property-poor town, have been forced to lay off teachers every year for the last few budget cycles, Volinsky said.

Volinksy said the first district he presented in was Pittsfield, on the night a popular long-time teacher had just been laid off.

“Everyone was in tears,” Volinksy said. “They’re getting killed.”

He said he then hopes a study commission will be formed that can cost out the requirements of state education and put forward a plan on how to fund it.

More than 70 percent of education is now being funded by property taxes, Volinksy said.

Superintendent of the Shaker Regional School District Michael Tursi said he heard how informative Volinksy and Tobin’s sessions had been and wanted to make sure the Lakes Region had an opportunity to attend. The forum on Thursday is being jointly hosted by the Merrimack Valley, Laconia and Gilford school districts.

“The school districts and the local taxpayer – it’s a relationship that we need to foster, and having the right information at their fingertips is important for understanding how schools are funded,” he said.

Tursi said schools and taxpayers are often adversaries when it comes to the budget cycle.

“This forum is an opportunity for all stakeholders to hear information regarding the revenue resources coming into the district that do impact their local tax bill,” he said. “We can talk at a high level and keep it lofty, but when you actually see the numbers that impact that town, it has more weight.”

Volinksy said he and Tobin will continue to present at school districts and to other organizations through the spring. They will be also be presenting at Memorial High School in Manchester on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.

He said he will not participate in another lawsuit against the state while he is holding office.

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