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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Education tax inequities growing

Just when you thought the Claremont Education Lawsuit was over, and we never really thought it was over, the Concord Monitor editorial page writes about property tax inequality.
The report lists Claremont as the community with the highest combined state and local school property tax rate in New Hampshire: $27.02 per $1,000 valuation in 2008. Residents of Newington, home to power plants, industries and a large commercial district, paid just $5.90 per $1,000 that year.

Though it charges almost five times Newington's tax rate, Claremont can only afford to spend $11,523 to educate each elementary school student, and it can only spend that much because it gets more state education aid per pupil than Newington does. Newington, however, spent $23,293 per young pupil that year, while keeping taxes in the cellar.

That's the kind of discrepancy the Claremont lawsuits were supposed to fix.
Well, no, not really. The Claremont decisions on their face were about equal tax rates for the state's contribution to schools. Nothing more. Of course, the real motivations behind the lawsuits were for property-poor towns to get money from their property-rich neighbors. Some towns are forunate to be next to the ocean, a lake, or a mountain. Other made the decision to put up with more traffic by developing their commercial districts. Still others worked hard to keep businesses out, and then went to court to fix the disparity in their tax bases. The Claremont Education Lawsuits had nothing to do with education, and everything to do with rent-seeking. Since someone will always want someone else's money, the case will never really be closed.

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