A Candia resident has filed a warrant article that would give property tax breaks to residents over 60 who don’t have children in the school system. Though a town lawyer said that the measure is illegal and cannot be enforced, the resident, who had three children in graduate from Candia schools, said she is trying to send a message.
From the Union Leader:
The proposal calls for a 10 percent reduction in the school portion of the property tax bill to all property owners who have lived in Candia for at least 10 years, have no students in the Candia school system, and one or more of the owners must be 60 years or older.
Voters at the town’s recent deliberative session were informed by a town lawyer that even if the article passes it’s illegal and can’t be enforced. In fact, a note will accompany the article explaining that it’s illegal when it appears on the ballot.
But Carla Penfield [the sponsor of the petition] still wants voters to weigh in.
“What I really want is, I want the article to draw attention to the fact that the school needs to get control of the budget. My hope is that even if it can’t happen that people will vote for it as a way to express their concern,” she said.
Penfield moved to town nearly 40 years ago when she had two children in high school and one in elementary school.
She said she served more than 10 years on the town’s budget committee and has watched school spending continue to climb while enrollment has dropped.
“My thinking was that this is not fair that we were increasing the school budget without any consideration for the elderly people who pay their share of that. I thought some consideration should be given to the retired people in this community,” she said.
School board Chairman Matthew Woodrow said it’s a fact that the budget has been up “year over year and enrollment has been declining at a pretty steady rate.”
Woodrow said Candia’s school population has dropped about 40 percent over the last decade.
Superintendent Dr. Charles P. Littlefield said the situation in Candia is similar to what’s happening in other small communities around the state where budgets still go up while student population drops.
“One reason is that the smaller we get we lose that economy of scales and the less efficient the dollar is,” Littlefield said, adding that he raised four children and feels the cost to educate them versus what he paid in property taxes was a “bargain.”
And he insists there are other expenses that aren’t necessarily tied to enrollment.
“Our costs of doing business increase. It’s health insurance. It’s the retirement system. It’s special (education) costs,” he said.