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N.H. Educators Battle Transfer Of Local School Aid to Housing

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Educators in New Hampshire appear to have stalled a lawmaker's plan to take funds from the state's foundation program for schools to give to communities that encourage the development of multi-family housing for low-income families.

"We're testifying in opposition to this as a raid on the foundation funding," said Marilyn Monahan, president of the state's chapter of the National Education Association. "The issue of afforable housing ought to be dealt with as an issue unto itself."

Ms. Monahan joined representatives of the New Hampshire School Boards Association in testifying before the Senate education committee that the measure would make harmful inroads into the state's $38-million foundation program, which is supported by the state sweepstakes.

They pointed out that the existing three-year-old aid formula pays only 6 percent of the costs of public education, making New Hampshire's the lowest state contribution to public schools in the nation.

Senator George E. Freese, chairman of the executive-department committee and the bill's sole sponsor, said he expected the4measure to provide some relief for cities and towns, which are bearing the brunt of economic development and dealing with moderate-income residents who cannot find affordable housing.

Mr. Freese estimated that the measure, which would subsidize 75 percent of the costs of a public education for children in eligible communities, would cost about $485,000 during the first year.

He said that an unrelated proposal to amend the state constitution in order to cap property-tax increases at 5 percent annually attracted a large, and frequently sympathetic, crowd to a hearing last week, indicating the frustration residents feel over rising taxes.

Officials of the state's Housing Finance Authority claimed that the housing bill would prevent communities from blocking apartment construction on the grounds that the residents of those communities do not pay their fair share of taxes.

The New Hampshire legislature does not permit measures to die in committee, but Senator Freese said his bill would most likely be referred for additional study "because of the resistance from the education people."--pw

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