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ConVal tax rates hit hard in some towns



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, November 23, 2018 11:9AM

The ConVal School District portion of the tax rate will be up across the board in the district’s nine towns, with some towns taking a bigger hit than others.

The formula for ConVal’s tax rate is calculated 50 percent by student population and 50 percent of each town’s equalized valuation, so towns will see dramatically different increases in their school portion of the tax rate. Greenfield, for example, will be seeing an increase of 27 cents in their school rate on the low end, while Francestown will see a jump of $2.19.

“It’s like a 10 percent hit on our taxes,” Henry Kunhardt, Francestown Selectman and ConVal Select Board Advisory Committee member said in an interview Wednesday.

The town portion of the tax rate, he said, is down this year, so the school portion is the sole driver behind the town’s tax increase. “It’s a big hit. I’ve already had two people call me about it, asking what’s going on.”

This year, the total increase in ConVal’s local assessment – what needs to be raised by taxation – has increased by just over $3.3 million, according to a press release issued by the school board on the district’s website.

In March, voters approved a $48 million budget for the current school year, which is an increase of $1.1 million to the operating budget. Included in the increase is a bond for funding the renovated science labs at the high school, as well as a $1.7 million salary and benefits contract for teachers. The remaining increase is due to various decreases in revenue from state and federal sources, including adequacy aid, health insurance reimbursements, catastrophic aid, and Title I.

This increase is out of step with previous years, according to the district’s press release. In past years, budget increases and decreases were more commonly in a few hundred thousand. This year, the assessment increase was up between 11 and 12 percent.

Towns with high property valuations will be seeing the biggest increase. In addition to Francestown’s expected $2.19 increase, Hancock will be increasing $1.73, and Antrim will be increasing $1.30.

“It is what it is,” said Antrim Select Board Advisory Committee member John Robertson. Robertson said the Antrim Select Board was able to keep the overall tax rate level by lowering the town rate with unexpended funds, despite the school increase. “We had to go scrambling to keep things where they were, but I realize the teachers need to get paid.”

John Jordan, who represents Hanock and chairs the Select Board Advisory Committee, said the towns were hit particularly hard by the $1.7 million teacher contract.

“It hits the towns hard. We start getting billed by the schools in July, and our tax bills aren’t due until December, so there’s six months where we have to make up the difference. This year was very hard on [Hancock], because we also had to deal with damage from the storm,” Jordan said, referring to road damage caused by washouts from torrential rain this fall. 

Several members of the School Board Advisory Committee said the committee as a whole would like to see the school budget come down. Temple Selectwoman Gail Cromwell said she’d like those reductions to be significant. Temple’s ConVal rate increased by 70 cents this year.

“We need to go down by $5 million, and I don’t see why they can’t do it. It’s really tough on the towns,” she said. “Why can’t they do a better job of controlling their cost? Particularly in the high school, it’s overloaded with fixed costs we shouldn’t be having. Seventy-three percent of [Temple’s] taxes go to ConVal. That’s outrageous.”

Cromwell said the towns have not yet received their payment schedule for school payments, as Dublin and Peterborough have not yet set their tax rates.

The town of Dublin will not be able to set its tax rate until after Nov. 29.

On Nov. 29, the town is holding a second special town meeting to ratify the results of a meeting held earlier in the month, where voters approved raising $225,000 via taxation to help repair roads damaged by a storm on Aug. 17.

The second meeting is needed because the first was not properly noticed per state law.

If the money is raised, it is expected to raise the municipal portion of the tax rate by $1 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

Peterborough has not yet set its tax rate. The Select Board anticipates discussing the tax rate during its Dec. 6 meeting.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.