As you may have heard, on Friday Governor Sununu vetoed the budget proposed by the Committee of Conference (“CofC”), which had passed the House and Senate on purely party lines. Unfortunately, this means that everything the CofC put in the budget is back on the table and potentially on the chopping block – including the $138 million in new school aid and $40 M in municipal aid that districts and towns were hoping to see. The veto leaves school districts in a quandary as they make staffing and other decisions for the school year ahead.
Immediate cuts in stabilization funding
A “continuing resolution” passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor will allow the government to continue operating, based on last year’s budget, for 90 days – a period that could be extended to 180 days. One devastating consequence of moving forward in this way is that the annual 4% reductions in stabilization grants, which would have been frozen under the CofC budget, will continue to take their toll. (Stabilization grants are paid to about 2/3 of NH’s communities.)
So the veto delivers a double blow to many school districts. Had the budget passed, they would have seen significant new school aid from the State. Instead, they’ll receive even less than they did last year – and last year’s cuts left some on the brink of disaster.
You can find out how much new State funding your school district and municipality would have received under the CofC budget in the next two years by looking at this spreadsheet. By contrast, the cumulative loss some districts will experience in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 if the budget continues as is can be seen in this table compiled by Reaching Higher NH: https://reachinghighernh.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CurrentLaw.pdf (For additional analysis by Reaching Higher NH, see https://reachinghighernh.org/2019/06/25/analysis-budget-veto-would-disproportionately-affect-vulnerable-communities/)
An illustrative example
Consider a specific community, Derry. If the CofC budget had been adopted, over the next two years Derry School District would have received $6.9 million in new school aid from the State. Moreover, the Town of Derry would have been granted $970,403 in unrestricted municipal aid. Put together, this additional $7.87 million would have offered the opportunity for property taxpayer relief to homeowners in Derry, while substantially supporting Derry schools.
But under the current scenario, Derry will not see those increases, and unless the Governor agrees otherwise, its school district will experience a cumulative decrease of $1.7 million in the next biennium – a 7.3% reduction in state funding for Derry schools. (See RHNH analysis cited above.)
The downshifting dilemma – property taxpayers take another hit
The Governor has justified his veto in part by saying that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on businesses. Those who crafted the CofC budget dispute this characterization and argue that they’re simply blocking an additional decrease in business profits taxes, which were already reduced last year. Whichever way you view it, the fact remains that the State’s chronic underfunding of schools results in a downshifting of costs to the local level, leaving property taxpayers to pick up the tab. When districts take an additional hit (like the 4% reduction in stabilization funding), property taxes will most likely rise.
What to do
All negotiations take place behind the scenes, so there will be no opportunity to speak at public hearings. But officeholders continue to be responsible to their constituents, and they need to hear from us.
Please contact the Governor, the four key legislators listed below, and your own Senator and Representative(s).
- Let them know you’re paying attention and will remember this moment in the next election,
- Ask them to stop the stabilization cuts immediately and resolve the budget ASAP so districts can plan for the upcoming school year,
- Encourage them to retain the $138 million in new school aid (which, though not compliant with the mandates of the Claremont decisions, is at least a meaningful step in the right direction) and the $40 million in municipal aid that were contained in the Committee of Conference budget, and
- Remind them that:
- all NH children deserve a fair opportunity for a constitutionally adequate education, and
- property taxpayers deserve a break, not an added burden.
Names and Contact Information:
- Governor Sununu:
- 603-271-2121 (leave a message with a staff person or voice mail)
- State House, 107 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03301
- complete a form at this site.
- Senate President Donna Soucy:
- State House room 302, 107 N. Main Street, Concord, NH 03301
- House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff:
- State House, room 311, 107 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03301
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse:
- State House room 120, 107 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03301
- House Minority Leader Richard Hinch:
- 14 Ichabod Dr., Merrimack, NH 03054-6226
- Your Senator and Representative(s): You can find lawmakers’ names and contact information by going here, entering your town, and then clicking on each Representative’s or Senator’s name. Urge them to stand up for their constituents by pressuring the Governor and legislative leaders to take the actions listed above.
For additional updates and information, follow us on Facebook: NHSchoolFundingFairness