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Grenier testifies in support of House Bill aimed at overturning education cuts

January 23, 2019
BERLIN — Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier testified at the House Education Committee last Thursday during a public meeting on House Bill 177 -- a proposed bill that would overturn legislature that is phasing out state stabilization grants for education. Property-poor communities like Berlin are suffering the most due to the current law.

At the meeting, Grenier represented Berlin and spoke in support of the bill. He explained that 68 percent of properties in Berlin are tax exempt due to being either state prison property, a church or part of the White Mountain National Forest.

There is inequality between wealthy communities and property-poor communities like Berlin, he noted.

Seventy-three percent of public education in New Hampshire is funded through local property taxes. Tax payers in property-poor communities like Berlin carry the burden of a disproportionate quantity compared to property-wealthy communities.

Grenier pointed out that the current legislature goes against the New Hampshire constitution that ensures the state must support "adequate" education.

The Mayor read a letter from the school board and superintendent who could not attend the meeting because they were voting on closing Brown School.

School board chair Nicole Plourde wrote that the state education cuts are "beyond the scope of what rich communities can imagine."

Current law reducing education stabilization grants passed in 2015 and took effect in 2016 that is set to cut, in all, $5.5 million of education aid to the city of Berlin. The bill allows the state to gradually cut the stabilization grants in districts throughout the state by 4 percent every year for 25 years ultimately eradicating the grants. Berlin is drawn against losing $220,000 annually in education aid. The state revised its adequacy formula and the stabilization grants set in 2012 were to offset the effects of the changes made. The formula decreases reimbursements for special education and eliminated money for districts that have the lowest tax base per student. The stabilization grants were mostly for towns that are property-poor and have lower incomes. HB 177 would withdraw those cuts.

Berlin property owners pay taxes at $39.52 per $1,000 and pay $16,680 per pupil in the school district -- that is higher than the state average of $15,865. The equalized value, a total taxable property value divided by the number of students, is $326,000. Some property-wealthy communities have an equalized value of taxable property eight times that amount.

Berlin school enrollment is declining and the school budget is about half a million dollars over budget.

Martin Lord Osman
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