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

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Mayor Urges Governor to Veto Donor Towns

May 26, 2004

PORTSMOUTH - Mayor Evelyn Sirrell Wednesday urged Governor Craig Benson to keep his promise to eliminate Donor towns by vetoing the 11th-hour backroom education funding proposal that was one vote short of being killed by the Senate.

"And if he won't veto it, he should be man enough to just sign it rather than let it become law without his signature," she said. "He should take responsibility for letting this happen."

The Mayor, leader of the 34 Coalition Communities, said the group is considering all of its options in the wake of Tuesday's "outrageous" outcome, and plans to hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible. After the Republican-dominated House voted by 30 votes to send the proposal to the Senate, that body approved it on a 13-11 vote. A 12-12 vote would have killed the measure.

The mayor praised the Donor town reps and senators who voted against it, and thanked those local lawmakers who spoke against it - Portsmouth Democrats Laura Pantelakos, Paul McEachern and Jim Splaine; Republican Reps. Dan Hughes and Jane Langley of Rye and New Castle, Jeff Gilbert representing North Hampton, and Democratic Senator Burt Cohen.

She said the Coalition Communities were scrambling to determine just how much more money they will have to raise to send millions to the wealthiest towns in the State. They also are trying to determine the impact from the loss of additional funding for educating high school, special education and English as a Second Language students. Transportation aid also was eliminated.

"On behalf of all the communities in our state, I urge our Governor to veto this bill because it goes against everything he has stood for. This is against children. It's against education. And it's an entirely new formula that gives targeted aid to the richest communities that was developed behind closed doors without one single public hearing."

The formula gives the State's four highest-income towns $4.2 million more than they were expected to receive in the Fiscal Year beginning July 1. Conversely, the four lowest-income towns get $1.1 million less, and the five original Claremont lawsuit towns get almost $1 million less.

"Current law calls for a statewide property tax of $3.24 as of July 1. This bill would increase it to $3.33. The Governor says he's against raising taxes. Well, this would raise the statewide property tax from current law.

"And when he was running for Governor, he said on three separate occasions during our Coalition gubernatorial debate on education funding on June 13, 2002 - and we have the videotape if he needs a reminder - that he would eliminate Donor towns. There also was a big banner in our Market Square that he promised to eliminate them, and we have the picture of that if he needs another reminder.

"But even more than that, I hope our Governor will stand up against the secrecy that is not only reprehensible, I am mystified as to how it can be allowed. State Senator Below said the State of New Hampshire could be fined $41 million by the federal government for cutting special education funding. Who is going to pay for that?"

The Mayor said citizens should contact the Governor's Office at 271-2121, or by e-mail at Benson@nh.gov, and urge him to veto the bill.


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