Home > Uncategorized > New Hampshire’s Seemingly Intractable Reliance on Property Tax MAY Be Challenged Yet Again

New Hampshire’s Seemingly Intractable Reliance on Property Tax MAY Be Challenged Yet Again

July 25, 2018

The Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) Blog directed most of its attention last year to defeating some deplorable legislation that would have directed scarce state funding toward parochial schools and home schoolers. While that legislation was stymied, funding for poverty-stricken NH public school districts diminished and, consequently, inequities widened. With the 2018 elections on the horizon ANHPE began its effort to raise awareness of the widening gap between property rich and property poor districts with two blog posts: one drawing heavily from a Concord Monitor editorial decrying the persistent inequities in the state; another describing a series of community forums that will be held around the state to raise awareness of how the reliance on property taxes undercuts equitable opportunity. The second post offered this description of a presentation by State Executive Board member, Andru Volinsky, who offered legal assistance in the funding lawsuit that was denied in favor of property poor districts two decades ago:

Volinsky began his presentation using a tall, white plastic staff to illustrate the central problem: the property tax.

Because schools rely on local property taxes for the bulk of their funding, taxes in towns lucky enough to border a lake, or to host a ski mountain, he said, can raise large amounts of money at a very low tax rate. Property-poor communities, meanwhile, tax their residents at a much higher rate – but raise less money for their schools.

Roughly in the middle of the staff, a black bar indicated the average “equalized valuation per pupil” for New Hampshire – that’s how much money a town has, on average, in taxable property per student.

Bars on the staff indicating the equalized valuation in Berlin, Claremont and Pittsfield were only about as high as Volinsky’s waist. Portsmouth’s mark on the staff, on the other hand, cleared Volinsky’s head by several feet.

The bottom line in this presentation is this: children lucky enough to be born into a family who resides in an affluent town will have twice as much spent on them as unlucky children born into poverty…. and in New Hampshire, as in every other state in the district, “failing” schools are inevitably located in property poor districts who cannot provide the same level of services as the “lucky” districts. In the democracy envisioned by our founders, one’s birth status was not supposed to have any bearing on economic success… but in our oligarchic economy, if one is born into an unlucky district they have higher mountains to climb than those born into affluence.

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