Bait and Switch

I’ve learned that SAU 60 has planned to use Charlestown’s money for updates to the school entrances and other projects. The rumor, admittedly unconfirmed, was that they stated that “the state” wanted it used for projects. The first thing that you should know as I enter my 10th year representing Charlestown is that Fall Mountain School District has never, not once, asked me about the legislative intent of a new law or funding method. Not once in almost ten years. The second thing that you should know is that I authored and sponsored multiple bills which would have stopped the stabilization grant reductions which are one of our largest problems. Those bills have been systematically killed. What we ended up with was a supplemental grant that ended up being called an “infrastructure” grant because of the fund that the money was coming from. We didn’t quibble about the title because the dollar amount was right. I can say that because I met with Finance Committee members and the Governor’s staff. All said the same thing.

There is zero doubt that the intent was that this be used for tax relief. The Governor’s exact words were “they can use it for anything they want, but we hope that it is used for tax relief”. The money was supposed to get towns like Charlestown back to where they were before the grant reductions began. Multiple demonstrations, protests and hearings about the grant reductions were held. Multiple people spoke out about it, some local. This money is what we got out of it all and literally the only reason that I voted for the budget.

Districts without a significant tax disparity issue may choose to use some of their money for projects. It is after all your money and local control matters. There are two districts in the state which certainly do not fall into this category. Fall Mountain is one of them. Claremont and Charlestown have the highest education tax rates in the state. There is no nuance here. The intent was that 100% of the money go to tax relief. The original intent was also that this money be sent directly to the towns. After the bill got through the rules process and other after-processes, it was determined that the money needed to be disbursed to the districts on the towns’ behalf.

I feel cheated. I have been fighting this battle for years. We reached a good faith agreement on a solution. Then,the rug was yanked out from under us. We should not be back in the position of having to fight the school board, administration, and other towns to get our money back. That is where we are though.


About Rep. Steven Smith

Steven Smith is a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, serving his 7th term. Rep. Smith currently represents Charlestown, Newport, and Unity. Rep. Smith is the Deputy Speaker of the NH House.
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