1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801, Tel: (603) 610-7281Fax: (603) 427-1575 Email: Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com

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Mayor Urges Unity, Accuses Senator of Trying to Mislead Reps

March 6, 2002

PORTSMOUTH, NH -- Mayor Evelyn Sirrell, leader of the Coalition Communities fighting the statewide property tax, Wednesday urged Donor town state representatives to show unity in voting for measures to provide relief to their towns and to ignore an "underhanded, less than truthful" campaign to derail a constitutional amendment eliminating Donor towns.

"It is truly time for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to come together to solve this problem. I urge all the state representatives to step forward -- and especially those from our Donor towns -- and say 'no more' to this horrendous tax that is pitting Donor towns against Receiver towns, devastating school and municipal budgets, forcing people from their homes, and may cause people to lose their jobs in our Donor towns," said the Mayor.

She denounced a memo sent by Sen. Clifton Below, D-Lebanon, urging the state representatives to reject CACR 35, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Raimond Bowles, R-Portsmouth. Below, ironically, is a co-sponsor of the other bill supported by the Coalition -- HB 1462, whose primary sponsor is Democratic Rep. Terie Norelli of Portsmouth, which would sunset the statewide property tax as of Jan. 1, 2004. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on both measures. The Mayor and the Coalition last week sent letters to every state representative, seeking support for both measures.

"This is an underhanded, last-minute and less than truthful campaign to try and stop legislation that will simply ensure that there no longer are any Donor towns today, or tomorrow. Senator Below is trying to fight this narrowly targeted, carefully crafted measure by circulating faulty statistics and using smoke and mirrors. It is time for Senator Below to face the facts -- people pay taxes, not towns -- and low- and moderate-income taxpayers in Donor towns pay the highest property taxes in the state."

The Mayor said it has become obvious that opponents and even news media outlets do not truly understand the issue.

"I want the people of New Hampshire to know that CACR 35 will not put us back into pre-Claremont lawsuit days. I would never support, nor would the Coalition ever support, any legislation that would lead to a diminished education for any child in New Hampshire. But the facts are that the State Supreme Court has said there is no proportionality now, and there won't be until every town in our state revalues at 100 percent valuation years from now.

"What's more, we already have disproportionate tax rates in New Hampshire. Just look at current use, where 60 percent of the land in our state is taxed at a lower rate than other land. I just wish Mr. Below would tell the entire truth about this issue, and be prepared to face our elderly, and low and middle income taxpayers when they lose their homes because he fought against CACR 35, Let him explain to people why they have to lose their jobs because he wants to play politics.

"Until today, I didn't things could be any more unfair than they are now. But how can I tell the children of Portsmouth that their education must suffer from budget cuts forced by the burden of this horrible tax so that the money can go to educate kids in other towns? How can we, as a state, force 10 percent of the citizens to support the other 90 percent -- an injustice that is tied solely to their zip codes? And the way things are going, a Receiver town today could well become a Donor town tomorrow and suffer the same consequences."

She urged the Donor town state representatives, as well as those from across the state, to stand up for the children of New Hampshire, and their parents and grandparents, by voting Thursday to end "this horrendous tax." She noted that both CACR 35 and the Sunset bill, HB 1462, have major sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

"Senator Cliff Below would have everyone believe that CACR 35 would hurt our state. What's hurting our state is the failure of Senator Below and the rest of our Legislature to end our overreliance on property taxes and make the difficult decisions that need to be made to protect our citizens. "

Mayor Sirrell noted that since the passage of HB 999 instituting the statewide property tax three years ago, almost $1 billion in "new" money has been provided to 80 percent of the state's communities representing 90 percent of its citizens while the other 20 percent of towns that are home to just 10 percent of the population not only didn't receive a cent -- they had to "donate" over $84 million simply on the basis of their zip codes.


 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801, Tel: (603) 610-7281Fax: (603) 427-1575 Email: Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com