Our Turn: House budget boosts education funding, taxpayer relief

Published: 4/8/2019 12:10:11 AM

We have heard a lot over the last decade about the education funding crisis in New Hampshire. In the last two years that conversation has accelerated as the amount of state aid given to cities and towns for education continues to decrease.

At this point most of us have heard the stories of towns that are struggling, and it is heartbreaking. Berlin had to close its last elementary school this year. School districts in so called “property poor” towns have a hard time retaining staff because they cannot afford to pay their teachers a competitive salary, and in towns across this state we are seeing property-tax increases that are causing people to have to sell their homes.

This year, the House has decided it is time to begin to reverse that trend and direct more state funding to school districts and provide meaningful property tax relief

In the House budget we have allocated an additional $164 million for school districts over the biennium. A study done by the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Reaching Higher shows that this money will provide 154 communities with at least 5 percent more aid over the current state formula. Our most vulnerable communities will see an increase of between 15 percent and 20 percent.

So how much money are we talking about for each community? In the Capital Region, Franklin would receive an additional $2.5 million, Bow would receive an additional $1.1 million, Hopkinton would receive nearly $700,000 in additional state aid, Allenstown would receive an additional $1.2 million and Concord would receive $3.9 million more over the next biennium. How would this affect property taxes? If communities were to allocate this money directly to property tax relief, several communities would see a more than 20 percent decrease in property taxes, according to the same Reaching Higher study.

Even if communities used the funding for additional education needs, it would still help prevent the property tax rate jumps we have seen over the last decade, all while helping to provide the education our students deserve.

We also know that while this aid is an important first step, it cannot be the only one. That is why also included in the House budget is the formation of an independent commission that would figure out how to fund public education in the long term. In the past, school districts have been forced to sue the state to try to get the state to fulfill its promise to education, and this commission will work to make sure that doesn’t have to happen again.

As the chair and vice chair of the Education Committee, we take seriously the state’s responsibility to fund public education, and we are excited that for the first time in recent memory the state will be doing more for our school districts and planning for the future so we can ensure that the state keeps its promise to our students and works to guarantee access to a high-quality education for all Granite Staters, regardless of ZIP code.

(Mel Myler and David Luneau represent Merrimack District 10, Hopkinton and Ward 5 of Concord, in the N.H. House of Representatives.)


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