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Portsmouth Council Unanimously Supports Targeted Aid Plan

March 19, 2003

The Portsmouth City Council has unanimously approved a resolution in support of the targeted aid education funding plan developed by the Coalition Communities and has requested that the Portsmouth legislative delegation support the measure "in all ways possible."

The Council passed the resolution backing HB717, the targeted aid enabling legislation, and an accompanying constitutional amendment, CACR 13, at its Monday night Council meeting. Portsmouth joins several other Coalition Communities that so far have approved resolutions of support.

Mayor Evelyn Sirrell praised the legislation and the vote of support from her fellow Council members, saying "we've been working on this issue for four whole years now, and this bill will solve the education funding problem once and for all."

"The City of Portsmouth is behind this 100 percent," she added. "The Coalition has put in a lot of time and effort and we've come up with a plan that treats everyone fairly and makes sure that all of the schoolchildren in New Hampshire have equal education opportunity.

"I believe that once everyone in the rest of the state learns more about this bill that they will want it to become law so that the property taxes raised in their town go back to local control. Right now, it's ridiculous that the State of New Hampshire controls $1 out of every $4 that's raised locally. We need HB717 to pass as soon as possible."

The House Finance Committee will hear the details of the plan on Thursday (4 p.m. in Room 210-211 in Legislative Office Building), and a division of that panel will review it in depth beginning on Saturday. The Finance Committee is charged with evaluating the fiscal impact of the measure before the full House votes to send it to the Senate.

Just last week, the House voted 209-135 to send HB717 on to the Finance Committee on the "ought to pass" recommendation of the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Edmond Gionet, a Republican from Lincoln - which, ironically, is a "donor" town despite having the state's lowest median household income.

The legislation was developed by a team of nationally recognized education funding experts assembled by the Coalition. It gradually phases in a funding formula that targets grants based on a town's education needs and ability to finance them, and set predictable controls on State costs. HB717 calls for implementation of the new formula on July 1, followed by a transition period that gradually adjusts each town's grant to reach a Targeted Aid Grants goal by the sixth year. There are provisions in the formula that would allow regular adjustments in response to changes in factors impacting a town's grant, such as increases in the number of students. The State's commitment to education initially would be set at the current statewide average and then grow at a reasonable, clear-cut rate tied to the Consumer Price Index and the student population.

A companion constitutional amendment, CACR13, is before the House Education Committee. The Coalition believes HB717 can stand alone, but is recommending a constitutional amendment to preclude future legal challenges and guarantee the State will continue to fund an adequate education for all NH schoolchildren.


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