A Letter from the Chair :
Why do we need a Taxpayers Association?
I expect anyone reading this cares about our towns and our schools. And knows we must figure out how we are going to be able to sustain the needs of our towns and our schools whose costs keep increasing. The school district budget is 70-80% of our property tax. Our teachers are paid below average and yet our costs per pupil exceed NH state averages. Our school district costs are in the 94th percentile of NH towns. We invest our tax dollars, yet have inadequate outcomes for the students. We need to look at how best to allocate tax dollars for the best possible for the kids and the most cost-effective applications for our taxpayers. That is what NKTA is about, better bang for efficient use of tax dollars.
As you likely know, in the 8 years through 2015, our property taxes increased substantially. Since NKTA's founding in 2015, while still going up, the rate of tax growth has slowed substantially. As mentioned, the school district portion of the school budget is the major part of the tax rate. With NKTA focus and attention on spending, the School Board returned over a million dollars to the taxpayers after the close of each fiscal year in 2016 and 2017 and 2018. The approved 2018 school budget is just a 0.6% increase for 2018-19. That includes a $600,000 teacher salary increase passed by the voters in 2017.
Centrist leadership from elected officials and Administrators, as a result of NKTA's presence, has led to staffing adjustments that better align with declining enrollment in recent years. The remaining extra spending is found in the current configuration and use of our facilities.
Anyone who’s looked at one knows, a school budget is very complex. We have to be grateful to our School Board and the School Budget Committee for the very long hours and commitment it takes to create and manage this budget and all that goes into it. The hours they give are amazing. The current School Board and Budcom members are committed to looking at the needs of the District for educational excellence and building a budget proposal based on those needs.
NKTA recognizes that we have aging infrastructure in our School District, with deferred maintenance. We advocated for a responsible study and plan to put before the voters, to take care of our investment and to provide the best possible environment for our children to learn. In recent years, the plans put forward to care for our buildings have not had funding proposals. NKTA wants to help find viable and affordable solutions. The School District responded by hiring the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) to do a thorough enrollment and facilities study that was presented this past fall. See it by clicking this link. That study identified the high per student costs come from operating 5 campuses with inefficiencies. Passage of the amended District Agreement will allow solutions to be investigated and proposed.
Many of us do not see how we can continue to absorb the related property tax increases, at the rates they had been occurring. Working together the community has found ways to at least lower the rate of growth of our property taxes, and maintain the improvements to the quality of education in our District. All of us with that concern and interest can help.
That is why the Taxpayers Association was founded.
We are comprised of some very committed people with wide expertise in government and business including managing large budgets. We need whatever help you can give. Please consider joining us. Check us out on Facebook and attend our next meeting.
Jim Baker, Chairperson