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Tax rate increase causes a stir in Ossipee

December 05, 2018
OSSIPEE — Just how much more can the Ossipee taxpayers afford, and when will they get their money's worth? It was as short but pointed conversation at the Dec. 3 selectmen's meeting.

There was sticker shock for many when Ossipee's property tax bills arrived in mailboxes last week. The base rate is up $1.60 to $20.80. Add onto that the fire precinct tax and the total rates are $22.37 for Center Ossipee, $23.33 for Ossipee Corner, and $23.10 for West Ossipee. The hike is due to the school tax rising $1.60 from 2017.

Ossipee sends 316 students to school in the Governor Wentworth School District. The per student cost, said Selectman Richard Morgan, is different in each town because 75 percent is based on average daily attendance and 25 percent based on the property value of the town. Because towns like Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro have higher total property value, the impact on those towns is less. The GWRSD budget is up $1.5 million over 2017, and of that, because of more students on the rolls, Ossipee is responsible for $900,000 of it. Morgan noted that New Hampshire State Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield) had proposed legislation last year to look at the funding formula of school districts across the state. GWRSD has existed, as has the same funding formula since it formed in 1964.

"Our budget committee is very concerned," said Morgan, as are the selectmen.

"We can't cut the tax rate enough in the town to make up for what the school district budget is going up. Unless we stop plowing the roads, get rid of the fire departments and have one part-time police officer. I don't know what the answer is," said Morgan.

He reiterated his push for the school district to have a budget committee made up of representatives from each sending town to scrutinize the $50 million annual budget. He also pointed out that, unlike towns, the school district continues to fund employee health insurance plans at 100 percent rather than make the employees pay a portion. This line-item alone, said Morgan is $9.5 million a year. By comparison, that figure alone is equal to the total Town budget of Ossipee, Effingham and Brookfield combined.

"We're paying that kind of money for a mediocre education? Our test scores are no better than average. Spending the money, we are spending I would hope for a hell of a lot more than average," said Morgan.

Comeau noted that "no one" shows up to the school board meetings and encouraged people to go, share concerns, praise, ideas, anything, just go.

The next school board meeting is Jan. 7. 2019 at 7 p.m. at Kingswood Regional High School Lecture Hall in Wolfeboro. The purpose of the meeting is final adoption of the budget. On Feb. 2, 2019 at 10 a.m. is the deliberative budget session at Kingswood Arts Center. Schedules and meeting minutes and more school board information can be found at www.gwrsd.org.

TriCounty CAP
Martin Lord Osman
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