In Hampton, the schools remain sacred cows. Whatever the school board recommends, which is the result of the direction from the Superintendents and Administrators, the school board’s rubber stamp and the voters typically go along. We have seen members of the school boards come and go, including Rosemary Lamers, Art Gopalan, Jerry Znoj, Denise Richter and Maria Brown among others, who were effective in balancing the needs and wants of the schools with the interests of the taxpayers. However, in recent years, former teachers, school administrators and their allies, who are in lock step with the administration and demonstrate little sensitivity to the interests of the taxpayers, have dominated local school boards.
|Hampton Schools Appropriations||$18,102,097||$22,206,431||+23%|
|Hampton Schools Enrollments||1,141||1,067||- 6%|
|Winnacunnet High Appropriations||$9,423,949||$11,992,801||+ 27%|
|Winnacunnet High Enrollments||1,110||1,052||-5%|
The issue is that while taxes driven by increased spending continue to increase at a significant rate, student enrollments have declined. Here are some facts obtained from the NH Department of Education website and the NH Department of Revenue’s tax rate calculation worksheets that illustrate what’s occurred over the past five years.
As an aside, the Hampton schools which cover pre-school to the eighth grade, student enrollment has declined from 1,448 students in 2001 to 1,067 in 2019.
Going forward, Hampton taxpayers are going to have to address a number of serious and expensive issues associated with aging town infrastructure including roads and the wastewater treatment plant, as well as increased recycling costs and flooding problems. In the 2019 Town Report the DPW Director has estimated the cost of repairing the roads and associated underground infrastructure alone at over $100 million. The time has come for the schools to be more sensitive to the taxpayer by showing some degree of restraint in their requests and for the voters to say NO to some of these requests
A case in point is the Hampton schools Teacher’s contract on the March ballot. If approved, this contract will cost the Hampton taxpayers $4.6 million over its 4-year duration, a whopping escalation over the last contract, which cost $2.5 million, also over a 4-year duration. It has annual COLAs averaging 2.5% that compound with 3.75% step increases each year for a teacher’s first 12 years. As one example, teachers starting at $41,784 that get a Master’s Degree during the duration of this contract will be making over $57,000 by 2023, a 38% increase. It appears, based on our sampling of several experience levels that most or all teachers will receive at least a 10% increases over the duration of this proposed contract. This is an area needing fresh blood and a serious financial transfusion into the current thinking patterns.
Another example is the proverbial $300,000 dollar warrant article for school maintenance!! Hampton Academy has been totally refurbished with additions yet the maintenance request article is still $300,000 as it has been for years!! This article should have been proportionally reduced! We need to send a message here with our vote and we recommend NO! The chicken who lays the golden eggs is in peril with this kind of spending!!
Hampton taxpayers need to prioritize and decide what’s important. Addressing deteriorating infrastructure such as the roads and at the same time funding significant increases in school spending such as unnecessarily generous wage contracts, an approach that would result in the taxes on an average single-family home exceeding $10,000 within 5 or 6 years, or begin to say NO to some requests coming from the schools.