CONCORD — The award of nearly $11 million in state aid that went to New Hampshire schools offering full-day kindergarten relied in part on keno revenue, but those gambling earnings covered only $2.1 million of the cost. The remainder came out of the state's general fund.
Legislators, including the prime sponsor of last year’s bill that encouraged schools to offer full-day kindergarten by guaranteeing a $1,100-per-student stipend paid through keno betting, were unsure whether first-year gambling revenues would cover the stipend.
David Watters, D-Dover, said last year that the possibility of not realizing enough revenue from keno sales created a lot of pushback among the Committee of Conference that finalized the bill. They finally settled on providing the stipend, regardless of revenues.
The New Hampshire Department of Education announced this week that the full-day kindergarten grants awarded to public school districts and charter schools totaled $10,728,603.71.
When asked where the money to cover the nearly $8.7 million shortfall came from, Education Department spokesman Anthony Schinella pointed to part of the law governing education funding.
"The governor is authorized to draw a warrant from the education trust fund to satisfy the state's obligation under this section," the statute says. "Such warrant for payment shall be issued regardless of the balance of funds available in the education trust fund. If the balance in the education trust fund, after the issuance of any such warrant, is less than zero, the comptroller shall transfer sufficient funds from the general fund to eliminate such deficit."
Revenue from Keno 603, as the state’s version of the game is known, posted sales of $11.7 million through the end of August, according to the Lottery Commission’s marketing manager, Maura McCann. However, the net profit amounted to $2.1 million, after payouts to players and the establishments offering the game, as well as administrative costs.
McCann explained that Keno 603 did not go on sale until December, and many towns had not voted to accept the game until their March Town Meeting.
“We had about 30 locations up and running during December into January and beyond,” McCann said. “At the town meetings this past spring, close to 60 towns approved the sale of Keno, and that has brought the number of sales locations up to more than 160.”
She added, “Our best weeks of sales have been this past month or so, and we are now averaging more than $450,000 a week in sales.”
The marketing of the game is continuing in an effort to persuade other towns and cities to join in Keno 603, “but now we have solid numbers to provide.”
McCann said the state continues to add one or two locations a week, and revenues for Fiscal Year 2019 will be much higher.
Local school districts received the $1,100 stipend for each student enrolled in full-day kindergarten as of the first day of school. Added to the $1,818.03 per-pupil cost the state was already providing, schools received $2,918.03 per full-time kindergarten student.
For Laconia, the kindergarten stipend added $155,721.17 to the school district’s revenues.
The Shaker Regional School District, comprising Belmont and Canterbury, received $73,662.17 and $23,796.08, respectively, based on each town’s full-day kindergarten enrollment.
Gilford received $71,099.93, and Gilmanton got $44,249.37.
For Inter-Lakes, Meredith received $70,050.31; Center Harbor, $6,739.92; and Sandwich, $8,800.
Ashland received 26,349.95.
Alton received $40,209.73.
Barnstead received $66,935.11.
Franklin received $66,452.32.
In the Newfound Area School District, Alexandria received $17,163.19; Bridgewater, $5,610; Bristol, $27,157.79; Danbury, $7,165.29; Groton, $1,100; Hebron, $3,141.16; and New Hampton, $13,200.
Hill received $7,700.
The Winnisquam Regional School District does not offer full-day kindergarten, so did not qualify for the money.