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Coalition Leader Urges N.H. House to Pass Statewide Property Tax Bills

March 4, 2002

PORTSMOUTH, NH -- Mayor Evelyn Sirrell, leader of the 31-member Coalition of Communities fighting to overturn the statewide property tax, is urging the New Hampshire House of Representatives to approve two bills Thursday (March 7) that would eliminate Donor towns and provide relief from this "horrendous tax."

"It is truly time for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to come together to solve this problem. I urge all the state representatives to step forward and say 'no more' to this horrendous tax that is pitting Donor towns against Receiver towns, devastating school and municipal budgets, forcing people from their homes, and may cause people to lose their jobs.

"There has to be a better way to make sure that all of our children receive a decent education without maintaining New Hampshire's status as leading the nation in an overreliance on property taxes to fund services," she continued.

"How can I tell the children of Portsmouth that their education must suffer from budget cuts forced by the burden of this horrible tax so that the money can go to educate kids in other towns? How can we, as a state, force 10 percent of the citizens to support the other 90 percent -- an injustice that is tied solely to their zip codes? And the way things are going, a Receiver town today could well become a Donor town tomorrow and suffer the same consequences."

The Mayor urged the House to approve CACR 35, a "hold harmless" constitutional amendment to eliminate Donor towns, and to also vote for HB 1462, which would sunset the statewide property tax as of Jan. 1, 2004. Voting for both, she said, would "send a message" and increase the chance that one will triumph. Both have major sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Mayor Sirrell noted that since the passage of HB 999 instituting the statewide property tax three years ago, almost $1 billion in "new" money has been provided to 80 percent of the state's communities representing 90 percent of its citizens while the other 20 percent of towns that are home to just 10 percent of the population not only didn't receive a cent -- they had to "donate" over $84 million simply on the basis of their zip codes.

CACR 35 would eliminate Donor towns in that no town would be required to raise more in education funding taxes than the state has deemed is necessary to educate children in that town. The primary sponsor of the constitutional amendment is Rep. Raimond Bowles, R-Portsmouth. It is co-sponsored in the House by Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett; Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth; Rep. Henry Mock, R-Jackson and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Paul Spiess, R-Amherst. Senate co-sponsors are President Pro Tem Carl Johnson, a Republican from Meredith; Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ned Gordon, a Republican from Bristol; Democratic Leader Bev Hollingworth of Hampton and Democratic Whip Burt Cohen of New Castle.

The amendment, which must be passed by a 60 percent majority in both then House and Senate, and by two-thirds of the voters in November, would be effective April 1, 2003. The Coalition is supporting a delayed implementation in order not to cause a funding gap in the current State budget, and give the next Legislature time to make up any shortfall.

The House Ways and Means Committee has recommended that HB 1462, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, be sent to Interim Study, thus killing it for this legislative session. The Mayor urged legislators to reject that recommendation, and instead adopt the Committee's minority recommendation of "Ought to Pass."

Co-sponsors of HB 1462 are GOP Reps. Dick Leone of Sunapee, Jane Langley of Rye and Spiess; Democratic Rep. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth; and Sens. Hollingworth; Johnson, Gordon, Cohen and Clifton Below of District 5.

There currently are 57 communities forced to send Concord more education funding than they receive because their communities are property-rich even if their citizens are not. As of next July 1, for example, Moultonborough must "donate" $5.7 million -- the equivalent of $1,272 for every man, woman and child in town. Portsmouth must send $3.7 million, or $179 per capita.


 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801, Tel: (603) 610-7281Fax: (603) 427-1575 Email: Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com