May 30, 2019BERLIN — On Wednesday, May 22, Berlin residents gathered for a public hearing to discuss the proposed budget. Representatives from the police department, fire department, schools and public works all spoke.
The consensus was that everyone in the room agreed that funding from Concord is desperately needed. Overall Berlin's Mayor Paul Grenier said he thought the meeting went very well, commenting that "We made a very detailed presentation to the public. We've been seeing a reduction in state aid for education. Since 2015, we've lost $2.2 million in state education."
Grenier pointed out that in Berlin, 55 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch and said that the cost for special education in the town is at an all time high.
"At a time when property values have gone down, we're getting whammied from all sides, so much so that I think people are finally starting to listen," he said.
As for the meeting, Grenier said that no one wants to make any cuts but that the committee has to work with the state figures they currently have.
"The public by and large does not want to see any type of reduction and would rather take a small tax increase to keep the community whole. This is the first time in ten years that I've seen the community come together in a public meeting. People don't want to see these devastating cuts," he said.
The Mayor did say that it is too soon to know what will happen.
"We're still a month away from finalizing the budget, and a lot of things are happening in Concord," he advised.
On May 25, Grenier met with Sununu and will report back in regards to the outcome of said meeting.
Grenier said he thinks some form of state funding for the schools is on the way, but said the amount is yet to be determined.
"It's very complex because Berlin needs to raise $400,000, which means the taxes would need to be raised by one dollar," he said.
Prior to Grenier's meeting with Sununu, the Governor has remained tight lipped on the issue that is not only facing Berlin, but Colebrook, Pittsfield, Claremont and Franklin as well.
"State funding is made up of two components, adequacy and stabilization. The stabilization is meant to help property poor towns and the legislature has decided to play games and began the reductions," he said. "This has forced us into three lawsuits against the state which we've won twice."
Lastly, Grenier said, "It is in no one's interest to have two New Hampshires, a wealthy southern New Hampshire, and then everyone north of Plymouth living in poverty."