Governor Pitches Budget 'Compromise' As N.H. School Officials Fret Over Cuts
Local education officials had a consistent message for legislative budget writers Thursday: Live up to the promises you made to school districts in the vetoed state budget. Their pleas came shortly after Gov. Chris Sununu floated what he called a compromise on education - one that Democrats quickly rejected as untenable.
Education spending has been a point of friction between Democrats - who boosted overall school aid by more than $100 million in the budget they passed - and Sununu, who vetoed that plan.
Local school officials, like Frank Sprague, who sits on Claremont's school board, told lawmakers to fight for the spending they included in their budget.
"We in Claremont are desperate, other communities are desperate. This is very, very discouraging. If I sound angry, we are," Sprague said.
As Thursday's hearing got underway, Sununu announced what he's calling a compromise on education funding.
According to numbers released by the governor's office, Claremont would gain about $3.5 million under his new plan. The city stood to gain $6 million under the budget favored by Democrats.
In a letter to lawmakers, Sununu said he's willing to incorporate most increases to school funding sought by Democrats in their budget. This includes reinstating a form of fiscal disparity aid targeted to property poor towns, increasing kindergarten aid, and sending one-time funds to districts for building needs.
This amounts to $131 million more to schools over the next two years, around the level Democratic lawmakers had proposed. The governor says his compromise won't increase taxes.
If approved, cities with higher levels of poverty and limited property tax base would see the largest influx of cash - around $7 million this year for Manchester, $4 million for Nashua, and nearly $2 million for Derry and Berlin.
NHPR's Sarah Gibson contributed to this report.