By Grant Bosse | New Hampshire Watchdog
CONCORD — While the New Hampshire Legislature was dealing with resignations and constitutional amendments, it was easy to lose track of some rather far-reaching legislation that will directly affect school districts across the state. The House and Senate last week agreed to overdue reforms to the state’s school building aid program.
For a history of the program and how it has worked over the years, you should read Daniel Barrick’s January 2011 report for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, “Under Construction.” Seriously, it’s only 15 pages, and that’s with a lot of pictures. Go read it. I’ll be waiting right here.
As Barrick’s report shows, state spending on school construction subsidies ballooned from about $15 million in 1995 to more than $50 million now. A wave of new schools across New Hampshire tapped into state aid that pays 30 percent to 60 percent of construction costs. This included $50 million schools in Bedford and Windham, leaving some lawmakers wondering why state taxpayers were picking up so much of the tab for local spending decisions. With no real cap on the state’s generosity, the building aid program exceeded the Legislature’s ability to pay for it.