This week the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on a proposed budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, which begin July 1, 2016 and conclude June 30, 2017.
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute examined that proposal in detail and outlined important differences among it, the version of the budget put forward by Governor Hassan in February, and the current FY 2014-2015 budget. The complete Budget Brief can be found here.
Highlights, particularly in the area of Education Funding, are included below.
The budget the House will consider this week would provide significantly fewer resources for an array of public services than the budget recommended by the Governor. In particular, the House budget would reduce investments in physical infrastructure, higher education, and other areas critical to New Hampshire’s economic future and would imperil services designed to protect the most vulnerable residents of the Granite State – the sick, the elderly, and the homeless.
The House budget would forego more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds, including the loss of over $200 million in FY 2017 due to the failure to extend the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.
Importantly, the House budget keeps New Hampshire on shaky fiscal ground over both the short- and the long-run, particularly by relying on temporary or one-time revenues, such as a diversion from the Renewable Energy Fund.
The FY 2016-2017 budget proposal put forward by the House Finance Committee would set appropriations for education, supported by both the General and Education Funds, at $2.32 billion, a figure that is $51 million below the level recommended by Governor Hassan and $26 million less than what was initially appropriated for these purposes in FY 2014-2015.
Education Funds disseminated to local school districts for grades K-12 would total $1.89 billion under the House’s version of the budget; thus, the House would allocate $24.2 million less than the total suggested by Governor Hassan in her budget and about $17 million less than districts are anticipated to receive in the current biennium.
Though the House Finance Committee recommends increasing support for charter schools – devoting approximately $3.1 million more in Education Funds over the biennium toward such schools than the Governor’s suggested amount – it would reduce basic education adequacy aid. More specifically, while the House’s proposal would, in FY 2017, fully fund catastrophic education aid – monies intended to help cover the cost of children with greater needs – by appropriating an extra $7.5 million compared to the Governor’s suggested amount, it would, also in FY17, lower the amount of funds available for so-called stabilization grants by about $32 million relative to current law. (At present, districts receive additional funds, known as stabilization grants, to help mitigate any declines in basic adequacy aid arising from drops in enrollment or other factors.) The House’s proposed budget would limit the loss of stabilization funds a district could experience to $750,000. Like the Governor’s recommended budget, it would also increase the statutory cap on the increase any one district can receive in adequacy aid from one year to the next, from 108 percent of the prior year’s amount to 115 percent.
A preliminary analysis of the impact of the House’s proposed education funding changes would have on individual communities, conducted by the Office of the Legislative Budget Analyst, suggests that 170 communities (or about 70 percent of the 245 examined) would experience a reduction in education aid in FY 2017 due to such changes; 45 (or approximately 18 percent) would witness no change relative to current law, and; 30 (or just about 12 percent) would see a jump in the amount of aid received. Under the House’s plan, ten communities – including Grantham, Windham, Bedford, Kensington, and Dover – would see education aid rise by 10 percent or more in FY 2017, relative to current law, while 74 cities and towns would see it drop by that magnitude. Twenty-three districts would incur the maximum reduction of $750,000.
A budget for any family or organization, no matter how big or small, reflects their goals, aspirations and priorities. What does this budget say about the budget writers’ vision for New Hampshire? It clearly reaffirms that their priority is not to provide opportunity for working families, or stimulate the New Hampshire economy, or protect the less fortunate. Their priority is ensuring the rich become richer at the expense of the poor and middle class.
“We all agree that working families thrive when our government actually promotes opportunity, protects workers, discourages outsourcing, and supports families. Our budgets should support our shared priorities and values. Instead, this budget continues the downward spiral of lowered expectations and aspirations we have become accustomed to seeing from the Statehouse majority,” said Scott McGilvray, NEA-NH President. “New Hampshire expects, deserves, and can accomplish much more. Cutting our way to prosperity is a failed notion, but one that Statehouse budget writers desperately cling to. As educators, we believe there is a success story in every student just waiting to happen. We believe the same is true for our state. The state’s budget should support that potential, not kill it.”