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

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Mayor Praises Lawmakers on Ed Funding Vote

June 16, 2005

Portsmouth - Portsmouth Mayor Evelyn Sirrell Thursday praised the members of the Portsmouth legislative delegation for voting to end Donor towns and to send targeted aid to the neediest communities by joining the 269-96 vote to concur with the Senate's version of an education funding formula.

Although the bill does include a $2.84 Statewide Property Tax, communities will retain it locally to spend on local education if they already spend more than the Statewide Property Tax would raise. Only the town of Hebron would remain a "Donor" but at an amount far less than before. Gov. John Lynch has said he will not veto the bill, meaning Donor towns will end as of July 1.

"Nobody hates the Statewide Property Tax more than I do, but the members of the City Council and I believed this vote was necessary to make sure Portsmouth is no longer a Donor town and our taxpayers weren't forced to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars extra to send to other communities," said Mayor Sirrell.

"We also did not want to suddenly be forced to increase the tax rate or cut services if a Committee of Conference had come up with a totally new plan like last year that cost us $924,000 just before we approved our budget," she said. "We all agreed this is what was best for Portsmouth and the other Coalition towns."

The Portsmouth City Council took a straw vote on Tuesday night and unanimously agreed to urge the seven state representatives for Portsmouth and Newington to vote for concurrence, expressing concern about the risk to Portsmouth if the bill went to a Committee of Conference to iron out differences between the House and Senate education funding bills. Six of the seven reps voted for concurrence. Rep. Chris Serlin was listed in the roll call as "not voting." (I don't know if he was excused for illness or personal business perhaps)

"It was difficult for them to vote for a bill that still has a Statewide Property Tax, but they also knew this was the only way to protect Portsmouth and Newington. But we will not give up fighting the Statewide Property Tax. Just today, the House Speaker said his House leadership will work to eliminate the Statewide Property Tax when the Legislature returns in January, and we also will be working to achieve that goal."

Mayor Sirrell also issued a statement on behalf of the Coalition: "On behalf of the Coalition of Communities, I thank the House members who put aside their great opposition to the Statewide Property Tax today to vote for concurrence, believing it was the only way to protect their communities from being "Donor" towns again," she said.

"Rather than risk a repeat of last year's Committee of Conference that led to $20 million in unanticipated "donations," they made sure there virtually would be no Donor towns and that the State would have a true targeted aid education funding formula. They knew there was a great risk of also losing on those two principles in a Conference Committee."

"We are certain these lawmakers will join us in continuing to fight another day against the Statewide Property Tax and for the total elimination of Donor towns. If current law had not been replaced, Donor towns would have been forced to raise over $19 million in excess property taxes for redistribution to other communities. more "These lawmakers showed tremendous political courage today. Even though they may hate the Statewide Property Tax as much as we do, they know this bill allows towns to spend the funds on education, and the harm to taxpayers would be far greater if forced again to raise extra property taxes to send to Concord."

Sirrell, leader of the 34-member Coalition of Communities which all have high property values even though two-thirds of them have median household incomes below the State average, said she was disappointed the Legislature never embraced the education funding plan developed by the Coalition Communities. HB684 has been retained by the House Education Committee for further study.

Senators Martha Fuller Clark, Joe Kenney, John Gallus and Carl Johnson were co-sponsors of the Coalition's proposal, along with State Reps. Edmond Gionet of Lincoln, Betsey Patten of Center Harbor, Jane Langley of Rye, Randy Foose of New London and Margie Maybeck of Holderness.

The 34-member Coalition of Communities is comprised of Alton, Bridgewater, Carroll, Center Harbor, Dublin, Easton, Eaton, Franconia, Freedom, Grantham, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hanover, Hart's Location, Hebron, Jackson, Lincoln, Meredith, Moultonborough, New Castle, New London, Newington, North Hampton, Pittsburg, Portsmouth, Rye, Sandwich, Seabrook, Stoddard, Sugar Hill, Sunapee, Tuftonboro and Waterville Valley. Contact information for each town can be found on the Coalition's web site, http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/coalition/about-members.html

Since the Statewide Property Tax was instituted in 1999, Donor towns have been forced to raise $160.7 million in excess property taxes to be distributed to other communities - many of which were wealthier by every standard other than per-pupil property wealth.


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