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NH School Funding Fairness Project Newsletter 7/22/19

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As Summer Sizzles, Let’s Turn Up the Heat on the Budget!

What’s been happening at the State House

There’s still no news on a budget deal between the Governor and legislative leaders, although both sides have been hard at work trying to gather support for their positions.  On July 11, the Governor wrote a letter to all NH select boards, explaining his rationale for vetoing the budget and asking them to send a representative to an informational meeting with him.  That meeting took place last Friday, behind closed doors.  Apparently, some municipal leaders weren’t shy about letting him know the hardships they face due to uncertainty over, and reductions in, state funding.  

The Democratic leaders of the Senate and House subsequently sent their own letter to the select boards, rebutting the Governor’s reasoning.  They also formed a new ad hoc committee of lawmakers that will hold a series of public hearings next month, where people can describe the specific ways the budget impasse is affecting their communities.  The third and last hearing, scheduled for Aug. 29,  will focus on education funding.  

Meanwhile, in towns and cities across NH ...

… school districts and property taxpayers continue to struggle.  Stabilization grants are being cut once again and municipal and school officials have no idea how much state funding will be coming their way for the fiscal year that has already begun.  This makes planning difficult and has resulted in lay-offs, unfilled vacancies, and decisions to hold off on needed infrastructure repairs until there is more certainty.

The budget limbo is making an already bad situation worse for struggling districts.   We strongly urge you to attend the hearing on education funding on August 29 (more info below), but PLEASE DON’T WAIT UNTIL THEN TO DO SOMETHING!  

A.  HERE’S WHAT TO DO RIGHT AWAY: 

1.  Call or email your Representative(s) and Senator 

Tell them exactly how the continuing resolution – i.e. the temporary return to last year’s budget – is affecting your schools and community right now, and ask them to pressure the Governor to come back to the negotiating table immediately and accept the budget that passed the legislature.  Help them understand your position by using tangible examples.  For instance, “Our police chief resigned and without a state budget, we don’t know if we can afford to replace him,” or “We had to lay off our only music teacher because our stabilization funding was cut for the 4th year running,” or “We have a bridge that needs repair, but we can’t allocate money to fix it until we know what we have.”  (Note: we’d like to collect these examples, so if you’re willing to share them, please forward them to schoolfundingfairness@gmail.com. – more on this below.)

You can find your Senator and Representative(s) and their contact info by going here, entering your town, and then clicking on each Representative’s or Senator’s name.  

2.  Contact Governor Sununu with the same message.  Here’s how to reach him:

  • 603-271-2121 (leave a message with a staff person or voice mail), 
  • Write to him at the State House, 107 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03301, or
  • complete a form at this site.

3.  Write a letter to the editor.

A letter to the editor of your local paper is an effective platform for convincing other members of your community to speak up as well.  Again, use examples describing the consequences of the unresolved budget. Send us the link!

4.  Please share information with us to help us in our advocacy.

As mentioned earlier, we’d like to gather examples of some of the specific impacts of this budget impasse, which will help us continue to advocate for fair school funding.  So if you’re comfortable doing so, please forward to us the emails you send to lawmakers and/or the Governor, or if you talk to them by phone, send us an email describing what you told them.  And we’d also love to know what you hear back.  schoolfundingfairness@gmail.com.

B.  SAVE THE DATE!  We hope you’ll plan to attend the public hearing on education funding scheduled for August 29 and tell committee members your stories as well. We’ll have more information as the date nears, but here are the basics to put in your calendars.

  • Public Hearing on the Effects of the Continuing Resolution on Education
  • DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 29, 2019, 10:00 AM (9:30 visibility action likely – more later)
  • LOCATION: Room 210-211,  Legislative Office Building, 33 N State Street, Concord, NH 03301
  • STREAMING: This public hearing will be live streamed on the General Court website

Here’s a little background information about the budget and the veto:

In June, the House and Senate passed a budget along party lines that contained $138 million in new school aid and $40 million in municipal aid. It’s been decades since NH school districts have seen an increase in state education funding of this magnitude, and because the new aid was targeted primarily to schools in property poor towns, it would have given struggling districts and their local taxpayers significant relief. Unfortunately, Governor Sununu vetoed the budget, and there’s no way of knowing how districts and property taxpayers will fare under the compromise that will eventually be reached. 

Because of the veto, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed,  a “continuing resolution” to allow the state 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 was that the annual 4% reductions in stabilization grants, which the legislature’s budget would have frozen, are continuing to take their toll. (Stabilization grants are paid to about 2/3 of NH’s communities.)

So the veto delivered a double blow to many school districts and municipalities. Had the budget passed, they would have seen significant new school aid and municipal aid from the State. Instead, their checks from the State are even smaller than last year’s – and some were already on the brink of disaster without these new cuts.

You can find out how much new State funding your school district and municipality would have received in the next two years if the Governor had signed the budget, 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 a table compiled by Reaching Higher NH here: https://reachinghighernh.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CurrentLaw.pdf .  (For additional analysis by Reaching Higher NH, go here.)

Help spread the word. 

“School Funding and Property Taxpayer 101” presentations have been given in communities all around the state and have been instrumental in raising public awareness of the inequities (for school districts and property taxpayers) inherent in the way we fund public schools.  If you’d like one in your community, email us at schoolfundingfairness@gmail.com.  These presentations can be organized by any non-partisan group or institution, including school districts, Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, public libraries, etc. 

For additional updates and information, follow us on Facebook:  NHSchoolFundingFairness


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