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

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Sept. 1, 2003

The Legislature recognized the injustice of "donor communities" in passing new education funding legislation but the continued presence of the Statewide Property Tax in the aid formula threatens local control and economic development while failing to guarantee help for the communities needing it most, the Coalition Communities said Monday.

The 34-member group vowed to continue its battle to eliminate the Statewide Property Tax altogether, saying existing resources easily can be funneled into education aid targeted to needy communities without using a Statewide Property Tax. The Coalition urged lawmakers to end the SWPT once and for all.

"We continue to believe that the best course of action for the future of our State and the future of local control is to completely eliminate the Statewide Property Tax and instead use other available funds to efficiently target aid where it's needed most," said Ted Jankowski, the Coalition's director.

"Although the new education funding legislation represents progress, it fails to provide any guarantee that poor towns can provide equal education opportunity to schoolchildren, that any town can control its spending future or that the Legislature won't return to - and increase -- the Statewide Property Tax at any moment," he said.

Although the Legislature approved legislation in June to reduce the amount of the SWPT to the level that only two communities would remain "donors" by 2004, there are fears lawmakers will once again turn to the SWPT as a funding source unless it is totally eliminated. Originally implemented as a temporary tax in 1999, the SWPT became permanent in 2001 and has cost "donor" communities millions of tax dollars sent to Concord for redistribution to other towns, many of them far wealthier by every measure but property.

Concerns about local control and the appetite of state government recently were raised by the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy when the independent think-tank issued its second report critical of the SWPT in less than three months. Earlier, the non-partisan, non-profit Center said the system had made little or no difference with the poorest towns on education spending, and they had lost ground on tax rates.

"The latest Josiah Bartlett Center report emphatically predicts that if the statewide property tax is not completely repealed 'in relatively short order,' there is no doubt the State will slowly but surely begin to rely on it again. This would return us to the unjust situation of donor vs. receiver towns without local control nor any guarantee that New Hampshire's neediest schoolchildren have been helped," Jankowski said.

"As the report concluded: 'We have a short window of opportunity to repeal the tax and should do so before it becomes financially impossible.' Our Coalition is urging the Legislature to take advantage of the opportunity before it's too late. There is no doubt, as this report found, that reducing local government's ability to control its own revenue source 'undermines its independence.' We hope lawmakers will take action to allow towns to determine their own futures."

The Coalition believes the State can efficiently utilize existing education funds to target 100% of the money to needy communities without the Statewide Property Tax, providing a full foundation aid approach that truly provides the necessary funding. The group's proposed constitutional amendment to fully target aid without the statewide property tax, CACR13, remains before the House Education Committee for use if necessary.

Editor's Note: The Coalition has undertaken the first analysis of the new education funding legislation. The formula is very complicated and not based on any formula or principles used in any other state. To see how it affects each town, visit: http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/coalition/numbers-0703.pdf


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