Cornish Residents to Face Decreasing Tax Rate

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The annual meeting of the Cornish School District will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Cornish Elementary School Gym. Town Meeting will be held at noon on Tuesday, with Australian ballot voting for town officers from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at the school.

Cornish — Paving priorities and emergency management equipment are helping to drive an increase in spending on the town side of the ledger, but a drop in special education spending is offsetting any potential impact on the overall tax rate Cornish residents will be facing.

The Selectboard has proposed putting $75,000 in the paving capital reserve and spending $74,539 to repave some roads in town, a $25,000 increase.

“We haven’t done as much paving in the last 10 years or so as we’d like, and some of the paved roads are starting to get in tough shape,” Selectboard Chairman John Hammond said. “We’re trying to set up the paving program on a 15-year cycle.”

A separate article on the warrant asks residents to raise and appropriate $38,911 for emergency management equipment, including a trailer and generator. The sum would be reimbursed through a matching grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Voters also are being asked to approve $8,000 to restore the World War I Memorial at Meeting House Park in Cornish Flat, with the money to come from an unassigned fund balance. The memorial was designed by the Lebanon Manufacturing Co. of Lebanon, according to John Dryfhout, the former curator and superintendent at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

“Cornish’s panel has the seal of the State of New Hampshire in its center top panel — which was gilded — as were the torch ends (flame finials) on the end posts,” he said in an email. Dryfhout is hopeful the Cornish panel and the park will qualify for listing in the New Hampshire State Historic Register.

Hammond said he anticipates there will be active discussion on a petitioned article from members of the Energy Committee to have Cornish commit to a goal of 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity by 2030, and for all other power by 2050. No changes are mandated to private property. “It’s goal oriented, but it’s not a mandate,” Hammond said.

If all items on the town warrant are approved, spending would increase 10.5 percent to $1.4 million.

On the school side, overall spending, including separate articles, would decrease by $79,929 to $3.4 million for the 2018-19 school year.

School Board Chairman Justin Ranney said the “biggest factor” in the drop is in special education, where spending would decrease by almost $237,000. That’s due in large part to a student who was tuitioned out of state but who has now aged out of the school system.

The school warrant includes an additional $46,000 in salaries under a new teachers contract.

“We had a lot of discussion about teacher retention, and where our (salary) numbers had not been overly competitive,” Ranney said. “We’re pushing to bring up the lower end, (so pay for) our younger staff is going to be a lot more competitive.”

Although the town tax rate per $1,000 of valuation is projected to increase by 64 cents, to $3.93, the local school rate would drop 71 cents, to $13.02.

When county and state education taxes are factored in, Cornish’s projected total tax rate would be $21.31 per $1,000, 21 cents less than in 2017, or a decrease of $53 on a $250,000 home.

There are no contested elections on the ballot. Hammond, who has been on the Selectboard for 12 years, is seeking another three-year term. Ranney and fellow School Board member Gregory Clark are running again.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.