CITY OF PORTSMOUTH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ted Jankowski, Deputy City Manager
Dec. 20, 2001 603-431-2006, Ext. 222
DONOR TOWNS HAVE STATE'S HIGHEST OVERALL PER CAPITA PROPERTY TAXES
PORTSMOUTH, NH -- New Hampshire's towns that are "donors" under the education funding mechanism also have the highest overall property taxes per capita, led by Waterville Valley where the equivalent of every man, woman and child in the town must pay over $12,565 to satisfy local, county and state property tax commitments.
Now that the municipal tax rates have been set for all but four of the state's towns, N.H. Department of Revenue Administration figures show the towns hit hardest by the statewide property tax to fund education also are suffering under high local and county tax rates. The top 12 towns are all "donor" towns, as are more than two-thirds of the top 50 towns.
"This shows that once again, taxing people on the basis of their property creates an unfair burden on communities that may be property rich while their citizens are poor. We have donor towns that are hard-pressed to provide basic municipal and educational services but must 'donate' funds to educate children in nearby 'receiver' towns with so much more," said Mayor Evelyn Sirrell.
"And these latest figures also underscore the problems with New Hampshire's overreliance on property taxes to fund services -- the highest in the nation," said Mayor Sirrell. "People are losing their homes because of these high property taxes, and it is particularly hard on people who have worked their whole lives to live in these homes they no longer can afford because of high property taxes. Something has to change."
Newington ranks second with a per capita property tax burden at $8,176.37, followed by Carroll at $4,908.12. At the other end of the scale, Benton has a per capita rate of just $680.69.
In Portsmouth, the equivalent of $2,195.66 must be paid by every man, woman and child to meet the local, county and unfair state property tax burden. Meanwhile, the residents of Claremont, one of the original five communities in the lawsuit that sparked the education funding crisis, must pay the equivalent of $1,359.56 in property taxes for every man, woman and child in town.
Not surprisingly, the 28 Coalition Communities fighting to overturn the statewide property tax rank high on the list. The Coalition is backing a three-pronged attack on the tax, fighting it in the Legislature, through education and in the courts. Coalition members are hoping that once the Legislature reconvenes in January, lawmakers will reverse their decision to make the statewide property tax permanent and will approve a constitutional amendment to "hold harmless" towns so that they are not required to send the state more in education funding than they receive to provide a state-defined "adequate education" for their own students -- a cap used by other states.
A draft of the narrowly targeted provision says "no political subdivision shall be required to raise or remit to the state, through taxation of real property, funds in excess of the amount required to support the cost of adequate education for pupils in such political subdivision."
A constitutional amendment must pass both houses by a 60 percent margin, and be approved by the state electorate by a two-thirds vote, which could come as early as next November. The proposal was described as a "common-sense approach" that levels the playing field. Coalition members said they would work with the Legislature and fellow citizens to continue to find a solution to the education funding problem, and emphasized that the Coalition supports funding an adequate education, but opposes the unfairness of the statewide property tax.
Editor's Note: The rankings list accompanies this release