Publisher's Note: Fairly fair
Though he didnít think well of it, Governor John Lynch let pass a new education funding law that will spread education funding more evenly across towns, creating the dreaded donor towns.
Unfortunately for most charities, ďdonorĒ is becoming a bad word in New Hampshire. Donating ó in this case itís a forced donation ó to your government so it can make sure kids are getting an adequate education is one of the more basic reasons we all pay taxes.
The redistribution of wealth has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Somehow weíve come to think of wealth and those who hold it as somehow better than everyone else. Why shouldnít, for example, wealthier towns spend lavishly on their schools (or keep their property taxes low) when other towns with large immigrant populations or a small property tax base have to use textbooks from before the collapse of the Soviet Union? Nyet. If we are to be the Horatio Alger of states, then education must be one of those things that we share ó equally across all towns. There are all sorts of economic development reasons for this too, but for this note, Iíll stick to the basic issue of fairness.
The argument against donor towns and against an equalized funding is that it destroys town control of education and is, in and of itself, unfair.
Nothing in the stateís new legislation takes away any town control. Itís true that in some cases property tax dollars may leave a town, but that doesnít change the way a town chooses to educate its kids (you can still teach Soviet history if thatís your bag). It might mean that those towns have to decide to raise more property tax revenue or make changes to their education offerings.
But thatís unfair, opponents argue. If by unfair you mean that those donor towns have to help pay for educating kids in other towns, then yes itís unfair. Why should education funding stop at your town border, though? We all contribute through our taxes to services that benefit people outside our towns. If we didnít there would be no military or roads. The point of taxes is to redistribute income in the form of government services. Itís the very reason we create government ó to benefit us all and those who canít support themselves.
So it seems very fair that property-rich towns help children-rich towns.
However, fears that creating donor towns will lead to increased education spending are valid. Itís sort of like ordering the lobster when your dad is paying the check.
This is solvable. The state already does this in setting an amount it is willing to pay and letting the towns make up the rest. Though this can work, it has led to some receiver towns using the state money to lower their property tax burden (example: Manchester). It would be far more fair for the state to devise a formula that prohibits such cost shifting or collects and distributes the money directly.