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Cash-Strapped School Districts Left Hanging After Sununu's Budget Veto

Dan Tuohy / NHPR


School districts hoping for a boost in state aid are back to the drawing board after Governor Sununu's budget veto Friday. 

Democrats said the proposed $140 million increase would be paid for, in part, by rolling back business tax cuts. And many districts said new money would allow them to make building improvements and rehire staff.

This spring, Franklin schools laid off 10 staff because of a tight budget. Superintendent Daniel DeGallo hoped to rehire them if the state sent more aid.

“We're short about $700,000 at this point to bring those people back,” he said. “We were really hoping that the budget was going to pass.”

New Hampshire now defaults to a budget that continues cutting a type of aid to schools called stabilization grants. If the current laws remain, Franklin could get $300,000 less from the state in the next two years, rather than the $2.4 million more promised by the vetoed budget. 

At the State House on Monday, Governor Sununu said he was willing to spend $30 million to $50 million more on public education -- as long as it did not increase taxes.

He told school districts to pass along a message to their state legislators.

“Let them know that the governor found a way to provide stabilization funding with some additional education funding, maybe even the student debt program, and the money we want to put into the university - that can all come into play without taxes and without a deficit,” he said.

In a statement to NHPR, Governor Sununu said:

“Today, New Hampshire spends more money per student than at any time in history. We have the opportunity to add more money into our educational system, including through stabilization grants, but believe it must be done in a sustainable manner so that promises are not broken in the future.”

Over the last 20 years, New Hampshire school districts' average per-pupil spending has increased by nearly 60%. This increase has been absorbed largely by local taxpayers, who now foot the bill for nearly 70% of the state's education costs.

Superintendent DeGallo said he remained “hopeful” that lawmakers would find a compromise in the next 90 days that would increase funding to Franklin and other property-poor towns.

Editor's note: This post was updated to include remarks from Governor Sununu.


Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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