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ICYMI: My Turn: Budget details should be a warning flag to local governments, school districts

Oct 17, 2019 by AFP

Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire State Director Greg Moore | Concord Monitor

New Hampshire finally enacted a state budget last month, nearly three months after the last one expired. While there are many aspects, both good and bad, within the budget, there is one area that should concern every property taxpayer in the Granite State.

The new budget takes nearly $110 million in surplus from the last budget and redirects these funds to cities and towns ($40 million) and to local school districts (over $68 million). This is a one-time payment to communities of non-repeating revenue that is the result of federal tax reform, according to the state’s Department of Revenue Administration. While it’s possible that the state’s revenue picture could match those levels again soon, the odds are against it, based on the first three months of tax receipts for the new fiscal year.

This reality should be a giant red flag to every municipality and school district across New Hampshire. Using one-time revenue to pay for current operations, to build out new programming or to add new staff expenses is a recipe for setting up property taxpayers for massive increases when, as expected, this new spigot of funding gets shut off.

That’s why it’s concerning to see Berlin build its school budget on this one-time funding, even before the state budget was enacted. While many towns with low property-tax revenues and rapidly declining student enrollments are facing stark choices, using “free” money to deal with today’s problems without a long-term solution is simply delaying decisions that will need to be made eventually.

Using these dollars to for long-term projects would be building future budgets on a foundation of sand.

We encourage every city, town and school district to be exceedingly cautious about these newfound but temporary resources that won’t be available beyond next year. They specifically aren’t meant to be permanent and, under state law, go away after 2020. Using them unwisely will set up your residents for major problems when they disappear.

(Greg Moore is state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire. He lives in Bedford.)

Click here to read the full op-ed.