The Coalition Communities
A.lton..Bridgewater..Eaton..Franconia..Freedom..Grantham..Greenland..Hampton.. Hampton Falls ..Hanover
Hart's Location.. Hebron..Jackson..Lincoln..Meredith..Moultonborough..New Castle…New London…Newington
North Hampton.. Portsmouth..Rye.. Sandwich.. Seabrook.. Stoddard.. Sunapee.. Waterville Valley
COALITION COMMUNITIES VOW TO CONTINUE, AND INTENSIFY, ANTI-STATE PROPERTY TAX FIGHT
For Immediate Release
PORTSMOUTH, NH -- The Coalition Communities are more firmly committed than ever and hope to mount a three-pronged attack on the statewide property tax, according to participants in a two-hour meeting held Wednesday.
Official representatives of the Coalition towns attending the strategy session said they supported challenging the tax legally, politically and through a full-time education effort. Selectmen from two towns, Rye and Newington, announced they would be returning to their towns to urge immediate approval of more funding for the effort. The City Council in Portsmouth, the largest of the 27 towns in the Coalition, recently approved another $150,000.
Portsmouth Mayor Sirrell told the Coalition members they, not the governor nor the Legislature, are going to take the brunt of criticism from angry taxpayers receiving tax bills that have ballooned because of the statewide property tax. "We are not going to be able to say, 'blame the state, blame the county' because the blame is going to be put on our shoulders," she said, telling her fellow Coalition members that their citizens are looking to them for leadership on this issue. New Hampshire has such an overreliance on property taxes to fund services, she said, that they constitute over 70 percent of the taxes collected.
"This isn't a Republican issue, a Democratic issue or an Independent issue. This is a fairness issue and this is an issue that is causing people to lose their homes. And I will be one of them," said the Mayor in urging citizens statewide to put aside pride and come forward to express their own concerns about being able to pay increased taxes due to the statewide property tax so everyone will understand the gravity of the problem.
"Our Coalition Communities are going to continue this battle, there was no question of that in this room, for the sake of our citizens," the Mayor said.
Tom Closson, the Coalition attorney, said the N.H. Supreme Court, in rejecting the Coalition's earlier challenge to the constitutionality of the statewide property tax, also provided a roadmap on how to challenge the tax -- proving widespread harm. Closson said he was still doing research, but believed the tax made permanent by the Legislature in June could be challenged successfully.
Coalition members also discussed putting political pressure on incumbents to overturn the tax and basing future political support on whether candidates for Governor and the next State Legislature sign a pledge to fight the statewide property tax. The group also is discussing hiring full-time staff to mount an education campaign statewide to inform other donor towns, as well as receiver communities, about the harm of a tax tied to property values.
Even though the Legislature appeared to reduce the statewide tax, rising property values will cost communities $16.4 million more. Meanwhile, 57 Receiver towns will be receiving less in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.
"Sooner or later … they are all going to be donor towns before this is through," said Joe Mills, a Rye selectman.
Coalition members also discussed how the state is forcing counties to raise taxes by pushing down certain costs, such as Medicaid and Corrections. Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko said Portsmouth's Rockingham County tax bill has increased 87 percent over two years, and 20 percent of the taxes collected in Portsmouth will be leaving the city for state and county services. Rye officials, meanwhile, said more than 50 percent of their taxes are going to state education costs.
The Coalition Communities are Alton, Bridgewater, Eaton, Franconia, Freedom, Grantham, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hanover, Hart's Location, Hebron, Jackson, Lincoln, Meredith, Moultonborough, New Castle, New London, Newington, North Hampton, Portsmouth, Rye, Sandwich, Seabrook, Stoddard, Sunapee and Waterville Valley.