By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Selectmen have called on the state of New Hampshire to provide property tax relief for local communities by restoring funding it eliminated in 2013 for retirement system costs for local police, firefighters and teachers.
The proposal is being made in a letter to state officials and candidates for the state legislature which selectmen approved following a discussion at Wednesday night's meeting. The letter maintains that over the last six years local property taxes have increased by $315 million statewide due to state's downshifting of retirement system costs to local communities.
The letter, prepared by Town Administrator Scott Dunn, had minor changes made in its wording by selectmen. Dunn said the letter was prompted by the state "reneging on its commitment to cities, towns and school districts."
The letter points out that in 1977 the state made a promise to pay 35 percent of the employer's share of the state retirement system costs for police, firefighters and teachers in a law which passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by Governor Meldrim Thomson.
The letter reads: "In 2009 the state scaled back its commitment from 35% to 30% for fiscal year 2010, and to 25% for fiscal year 2011, which represented a budget cut of $27.9 million. This savings in the sate budget had to be made up by local property taxes, a process called downshifting.
"In 2011 the state completely reneged on its commitment to partially pay local government costs for the state retirement system and abdicated its funding responsibility by going from 25% to 0% beginning in fiscal year 2013. This time the state saved a total of $124.2 million by cutting that amount from the 2-year state budget. Once again, however, every penny of that amount had to be raised through local property taxes. In total, the elimination of the state's 35% retirement contribution for teachers, police and firefighters from 2010-2015 has cost cities, towns, school districts and counties collectively approximately $315 million."
The letter goes on to point out that the state had a general fund surplus of $47 million last year and that preliminary revenues for the fiscal year which ended on June 30 of this year were up by $159 million over last year.
"We believe the time has come for the State of New Hampshire to provide some type of property tax relief and demonstrate a semblance of integrity by restoring its commitment to fund 35% of the retirement system costs for police, firefighters and teachers," the letter says.
Selectmen said in the letter that residents of the state should ask all candidates for state office whether they will support property tax relief by honoring past promises made to contribute to retirement system costs and tell those who answer no "that they do not deserve to be elected."
Richard Grenier, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the issue should be brought to the attention of the members of the Belknap County delegation and it should be pointed out to them that "the costs got passed down because you voted for it."
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