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Rep. Tom Schamberg: If you want lower property taxes, support casinos

April 09. 2014 5:47PM

On 3.5 acres in Wilmot, my wife and I paid $8,276 in property tax. Our property is humble, no mountain views or lakefront. Why is our tax burden so high? We have our share of revenue challenges in Wilmot, but our town officials have done everything possible to contain costs and use money from a reserve fund to protect residents from big tax increases. The truth is our taxes really started going up when the Legislature suspended revenue sharing to communities all around the state.

Since then taxes have gone from around $6,000 on our property during the middle of the great recession to what we pay today. If revenue sharing would be restored, we all might see a change in our tax bills.

As a state representative, I ran to help alleviate some of the pressure we have seen as the state down shifted costs for many basic services onto the shoulders of local communities. Wilmot, Sutton and residents over the state have been asking for some form of property tax relief, and I think they should receive it.

I serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, where my colleagues and I have been working to craft a real solution to some of our state’s biggest challenges, including revenue for state and local budgets. After seeing years of rising property taxes and cuts to our state programs, I am proud to say that we have finally found a non-tax revenue solution. Senate Bill 366, a bill to license expanded gaming in New Hampshire, will bring an estimated $100 million in state revenue per year and restore the revenue sharing program that used to keep our property taxes lower. This proposal will send $25 million annually directly to cities and towns. Examples of revenue sharing that would be restored per year: Berlin — $1 million; Concord — $1.2 million; Londonderry — $316,000; Manchester — $3.9 million; Nashua — $2.4 million; Newmarket — $136,000; Portsmouth — $657,000; Laconia — $646,000; and Keene — $1 million.

Other towns and communities would see relief in the hundreds of thousands. While many legislators have their own personal opinions regarding gaming, how can they refuse $25 million per year in property tax relief for their constituents?

SB 366 is scheduled to be heard at 9 a.m. today by the House Ways and Means Committee. A vote may occur the following week in committee and then on to the House around April 23. Could your municipality use revenue sharing? Would you prefer your community have another revenue source in addition to property taxes? I know mine could.

I believe this is a great opportunity to help municipal budgets and bring down property taxes. By including a revenue provision as part of gaming legislation, all municipalities see some potential property tax relief, regardless of where a casino is located.

Many of our towns and cities have revenue challenges. Our present property tax structure is an inhibitor to economic and population growth. Let’s do something about it. We all should be contacting our local House members to support SB 366 when it comes to the House floor in order to reinstate revenue sharing with all New Hampshire municipalities.

Rep. Tom Schamberg is a Democrat from Wilmot.

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