Big drops in enrollment in Sandwich & Center Harbor mean more of Inter-Lakes tax burden falls to Meredith
Published Date Written by Adam DrapchoMEREDITH — When voters from Sandwich, Center Harbor and Meredith come together on March 6 for the Annual Inter-Lakes School District Meeting, they'll be asked to approve a proposed operating budget of $20,998,543, a budget that is 2.75 percent greater than the current one. How those voters will be affected by that budget will depend on which town they're from. Taxpayers in Meredith will see their tax bill increase as a result of the new budget, should it pass, while those in Center Harbor and Sandwich will see a decrease in the school portion of their tax bill, despite the proposed increase.
The difference is due to the formula followed since 1961 to divide the cost of operating the school district between three member townships. The formula balances a town's portion of costs, as measured by what percentage of the overall student body comes from each town, with a community's ability to raise the funds, as determined by a town's total property assessment relative to the other towns in the district. According to materials made available by the district office, both of these factors declined for Center Harbor and Sandwich, while Meredith saw both its total valuation and enrollment increase.
Student enrollment, in the cost-sharing formula, is measured as average daily membership (ADM), calculated over the course of an entire school year. Center Harbor's ADM declined from 124.13 in the 2010-2011 school year to 104.27, a drop of 16 percent. Sandwich's ADM declined by 17 percent, from 154.76 to 128.36. Meredith's ADM, however, went from 809.84 to 849.52, a gain of 5 percent.
Property assessments followed a similar pattern. Center Harbor's total property valuation sustained a modest decline of one percent, falling to $412,837763. Sandwich's assessment fell to $438,429,229, a decline of 9 percent. Meredith property increased in value by about 5 percent, to $1,848,418,481.
With approximately 68.5 percent of the total land value in the district, and with 78.5 percent of all Inter-Lakes students, Meredith taxpayers will bear 73.5 percent of the cost of operating the district's schools next year, while this year the town is responsible for only 70.4 percent. Center Harbor's burden will drop from 13.5 percent of the budget to 12.5 percent.
Sandwich taxpayers will pay 14 percent next year, while last year they funded 16.1 percent of the district budget.
According to the district's analysis, Meredith residents will see the school portion of their tax bill rise by $78.90 for every $100,000 of assessed property value. Center Harbor taxpayers will see a decrease of $11.03 for every $100,000 of property, while Sandwich's decrease will be $49.98. These numbers do not include additional expense that would be incurred with the passage of special warrant articles.