If all municipal, SAU90 and Winnacunnet High School warrant articles pass this March the Hampton tax rate will increase by 7% to $17.53 this year. The accumulative increase in the taxes on an average single-family home will have risen from $5,989 in 2014 to $7,150 in 2018, a 19% increase of over $1,000 in only 4 years. At this rate we will be at $9,000 in another five years. The 2018 estimate does not even include the $11.8 million WWTP bond on the ballot, if approved it will not hit the tax rate until 2019.
The schools impact on taxes, combining SAU90 and Hampton’s portion of WHS, reflect a 22% increase over the 4 years, while the municipal increase is about a 16%. We find this particularly disturbing based on the fact that student enrollments have declined significantly in recent years, and are forecast to continue to decline in the future, while the town has had to face, and is facing, issues associated with aging infrastructure (Fire Stations, the Church St, Pump Station, Sewer system infrastructure, the WWTP plant, seawalls, storm water systems / flooding and road paving etc.) Property tax increases in Hampton have outpaced the CPI by an incredible margin over the years. Had property taxes risen since 1992 at the same rate as the CPI they would be almost $3,000 or 40% lower than the $7,150 estimate for 2018. The chart below illustrates historical increases and the trend.
Significant reforms need to be made to the budgeting process. There needs to be more emphasis on the part of the Selectmen and School boards on balancing operational needs with the financial impact on the taxpayers. The combined impact of all of the items requested by these boards needs to have some relationship to the taxpayer’s ability to afford them. As part of the process the governing bodies need to understand and communicate the accumulative tax impact of their requests in the context of comparatives such as the CPI, average wage increases, increases in social security and the general health of the economy
Finally, more members of the public need to get engaged before it’s too late to avoid a repeat of the 70% tax increase that occurred between 1997 and 2003. There is a moral obligation, as well as a direct benefit to participating in what happens in Hampton, please don’t leave it to a few people with agendas driven by “special interests.” Consider running for elected office, if time is a constraint for you just spend several hours a year educating yourself on key local issues and vote. While as high as 90% registered voter’s show up for presidential elections, only 25-30% weigh in at the ballot box on local elections. In the past few years a number of high cost warrant articles have passed by less than 25 votes. With little effort, you can make a difference!