I refer to an August 6 column by the editor of the Concord paper you can find on their web site entitled: “State Gets Older But Not Wiser.”
This article is about a young family man (the same guy) with children to educate in the public schools and how he had to leave Fla. 30 years ago for NH in order to get a quality result for his kids. He left the failing Fla. schools and his neighbors behind for greener pastures – Concord NH, a pro-education community as he describes it.
Well isn't this what the whole story is about anyway?
It seems some Exeter demographer has the ear of the Concord paper's staff and now all of a sudden the aging of NH is a big deal – only because it looks like education spending may take a hit at town and school meetings from these new senior voters, according to this rather one-sided theory. (Better late than never if its true.).
I look at it somewhat differently.
While the editor of the Concord paper writes openly about his meeting with the demographer, who reveals to us that he can tell when a school bond will pass in any given community by the demographics. (You can even buy software for this task.)
Thanks to this column we can get a look at what has been going on for some time in towns all over our state since about 1999. That was when our taxpayer organizations first noticed the trend of pushing $19-$20 million dollar school construction bonds in town after town, needed or not.
You see, when a school board and its demographic experts thinks they have the votes to build they shoot for what bond amount their figures say is the most the community can “afford” without voters rejecting the bond. In effect, they just pick a number, not what building project would fit the need while at the same time be affordable for, lets say, older fixed-income taxpayers. They lay down the financial gauntlet to older homeowners to either pay up or get out. More young families move in for the new school and shazam! you and yours run the place.
So in 1999-2000 as the state demographics finally began to show less children entering public schools, school spenders started building as fast as possible. It was common knowledge at the time, as the theory went, that a then proposed income tax would cover the costs. Ah but the 2001 attempt failed in the House by ten votes (CNHT says “you're welcome” by the way).
The editor of the Concord paper also seems disturbed not only by the aging of our NH population, which he sees as anti-education, but at the loss of our young people because of a lack of “affordable housing.” And he gets this wrong as well.
First: Older and wiser taxpayers resent paying for schools that do not cut the mustard educationally. They are not like the easy-sell parents of school age kids who want it all and want it now. (Sound like the guy who left Fla. 30 years ago?)
Second: Houses are not that expensive – land is. And build-able land is becoming more and more scarce every year due to conservation easements and outright purchases with tax dollars. I can buy a truckload of 2×4s any time I want but if I have no land how can I build a home with it.
Third: In the school year 2000-01 we had 205,299 children enrolled in NH public schools. As of 2005-06 we have 205,767. In short, we have built schools for kids who are not coming during the life of these new schools and voters are catching on. The glory years of young parents controlling school and town meetings are coming to a close.
Funny, the demographer mentioned in the commentary is from Exeter where fixed income taxpayers with the help of CNHT members figured this out long ago and passed elderly exemption measures to shift the tax burden back on younger voters.
Maybe the editor of the Concord paper should pack up and look for greener pastures again. This is a trend that is not about to stop.