School Funding - John Tobin

Attorney John Tobin of Concord will speak on school funding and property taxes at the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth next Tuesday, Dec. 10.. (COURTESY PHOTO)

TAMWORTH — With New Hampshire’s current tax system, people in property-rich towns pay a lower rate than those in less affluent areas, and that’s unfair, says a lawyer who will be speaking at the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth next Tuesday, Dec. 10.

SAU 13 will be hosting the presentation by attorney John Tobin of the N.H. School Funding Fairness Project on the topic of school funding and property taxes in New Hampshire. The talk is set to start at 6:30 p.m. Snow date is Thursday, Dec. 12.

Tobin and his colleagues have given this presentation in more than 60 places since the summer of 2018, including Kennett High School in May.

Tobin was one of the lawyers in the Claremont N.H. Supreme Court battle back in the 1990s.

Tobin says the problems with property taxes have gotten “a lot worse since the 1990s.” He is now filing a “friend of the court brief” on behalf of several school districts who support the ConVal School District, which is suing the state alleging that the state is not adequately funding education.

In a Dec. 3 interview, Tobin said his part of the Claremont case “focused on the property tax side — the problem of the really disparate rates and the hardship that causes people in the towns with lower property values.”

A notice from SAU 13 Superintendent Meredith Nadeau and Tamworth School Board Chairman Jack Waldron that promoted Tobin’s talk said the discrepancies in tax rates is still a problem.

“Within SAU 13, local districts pay vastly different amounts of property tax to support their local schools,” they said. “Tamworth, for example, typically has the highest tax rate in Carroll County. The State of New Hampshire has been found to have acted unconstitutionally by not funding an adequate education for the students of New Hampshire. Instead, this responsibility has been foisted onto the backs of the local property taxpayers.”

According to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, the 2019 local school tax rates per $1,000 of assessed property value for each town in SAU 13 are the following: Freedom, $5.59; Madison, $10.61 and Tamworth $13.39.

Freedom has a valuation of $491,199,554, and Tamworth has a valuation of  $384,236,273.

Freedom and Madison Elementary schools house kindergarten through sixth grade classes, and K.A. Brett kindergarten through eighth grade. All three towns send their high school students to Kennett High School.

Tobin said Freedom has “far fewer” children and “much more valuable property” so they can have a lower rate. Freedom abuts Ossipee Lake, while Tamworth does not have a big lake.

“Why should tax rates depend on whether there is a lake or a mountain or a seacoast?” asked Tobin. “More importantly, why should kids’ education depend on whether one of those things exists or not? It’s a pretty arbitrary system.”

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