Guest Contribution by Arthur Green
In 2013/14 year -just four budget years ago – TRSD presented a budget that was $5 million less than what they are asking for now, to educate 400 more students. The proposed 16/17 budget is a 7.8% dollar increase for a 9.8% decline in students in four years.
Recent History of School Tax Increases
Sandown residents may remember November, 2013 when their property tax bills showed a huge increase of about 9.5% in the school portion.
What had led to that event? The prior winter, the district had presented a budget of $64,272,000, a seemingly-frugal 1.98% more than the previous year. True, there was also a new collective agreement with the teachers, which would add another $400,000, but altogether the increase would still be $1,650,000, or about 2.6% more than budgeted for the previous year.
The material presented to deliberative in February did include forecast tax rates. In Sandown’s case, the increase was shown as $17.24 per thousand, up from $15.87 per thousand. The deliberative materials did not mention that this represented an 8.6% increase. With the teachers collective agreement, the forecast tax rate was 9.7%.
But with the top line budget increase of less than 2%, it seems likely that few taxpayers were on the alert for the impact which would arrive the following December.
In the spring of 2013, Sandown property owners received notice of the results of town-wide re-assessment, and most saw a significant decrease in their assessed valuation. Without the awareness that almost everyone’s assessment had decreased, each individual was potentially expecting that their individual property tax burden would likely drop along with their assessed value. No such luck.
In 2012, Timberlane had assigned Sandown $9,607,931 as the town share of school district costs, which would be collected from the property taxpayers. In 2013, the amount, including the approved teachers contract, was $10,520,939. This was a 9.5% increase. So on average, Sandown property owners had to pay 9.5% more even though their assessed values had dropped. Instead of school tax rates in the range of $16 or $17 per thousand, taxpayers were now seeing $20 or $21 per thousand.
So the headline frugal budget increase of less than 2% became a brutal tax increase of 9.5%.
Were taxpayers warned? Yes, the information was there at deliberative, but few took notice, and none spoke out.
That was then. This is now.
Fast forward to this year’s budget cycle – the TRSD 2016/17 budget.
On average, the Sandown property taxpayer can expect to see 13.8% added to the school portion of the tax bill in December 2016.
The total budget, $69,334,000, is presented to the public as a 1.48% increase from the previous year. There is also a new collective agreement with the teachers which, if approved by warrant article, will add another $600,000, for a seemingly-modest increase of 2.4% over the previous year.
Just as in 2013, this ‘modest’ increase will cause taxes to skyrocket.
The TRSD handout at Deliberative included a 2-page “School Tax Rate Recap“. This tells us that in 2015/16 year, Sandown was assigned $10,889,085 to be collected from the property taxpayers. For the 2016/17 year, that increases to $12,226,396, an increase of 12.3%. If the teachers collective agreement is approved, that will add a further $165,384, which will make the total increase 13.8%.
Sandown cannot afford to remain in Timberlane.
What about impact on the other towns in the district? Assuming that the collective agreement is approved, here are the tax increases:
Why the differential impact? That’s a topic for another day.
By the way, if you’d like to see that page of the Deliberative handout, you will have some difficulty. You won’t find it on the TRSD web site because their version of the Deliberative package ends at the page before the tax impact: document.
- 2013/14: just over $64 million to educate 3,924 students
- 2016/17: $69.3 million to educate 3,528 students