- Jun 24, 2010
- Reaction score
You're right on about the balance between taxes and services. Ideally, taxes would be low and services reliable, but I think something needs to change in Manchester (and New Hampshire) when it comes to the tax structure and allocation of funding. I would describe myself as fiscally prudent (I don't think there's anything "conservative" or prudent about deferred maintenance), and I think spending money through taxes to invest in certain infrastructure and programs can pay dividends in the future.As a resident of Manchester, I must say the city has some really great projects which been developed and in the works. Hopefully the south end of Elm Street spurs growth with recent construction and renovations to present buildings. I spoke to the owner of Mangia (hands down the best Italian restaurant in Manchester), and the whole reason he moved his restaurant to the southern part of Elm from Hooksett was the possibility of more foot traffic and general pedestrian activity which was not there 5 years ago. The new Elliot Urgent care facility, Farnum Center, and mixed development where the state liquor store is going will help businesses according to Angelo. I guess there are other projects that are developing for the south end of Elm Street. I can't recall exactly what they are, but from what I remember, residential towers come to mind.
Let me preface the following by writing that I consider myself fiscally conservative, and socially liberal, but find the Tea Party to be have an obnoxious undertone. However for cities such as Manchester to become an appealing place to live, the public schools have to be acceptable. Manchester is notorious in the Granite state for having sub-par public schools. So my main concern with Manchester as a property owner and a citizen is the public schools do not receive support from the locals politicians and even parents. My current property taxes are outrageous for owning a tiny tenth of an acre, and my kids will be going to a school where the average class size between 25-30. All while the side walk in front of my house has more grass on it than most of my backyard. Who knows where the property tax money flows to. My point being that if my taxes are going to be high, then at least have acceptable public schools, and if they did this it would make Manchester an extremely desirable place to raise a family. But I guess the fiscally conservative part of me should just be quiet Pretty much a walking contradiction.
Compared to many of the surrounding towns, Manchester actually has a relatively low property tax rate. Obviously, it doesn't have the same property values as some of the suburbs like Bedford, so a rate of $18 per $1000 on a property valued at $200,000 in Manchester doesn't amount to the same revenue as the same rate would on a $500,000 house in Bedford, but it also means a lower tax bill. What I don't like about the tax cap--aside from the undemocratic idea of a simple majority in the past being able to require a supermajority to make a different decision in the future--is that it arbitrarily sets tax rates. For instance, Manchester effectively cannot raise taxes above the rates that were set as a result of the budget-cutting years of the Guinta administration, which coincided with the last years before the recession and the resultant drop in property values. So Manchester is not only stuck with a tax rate of, say, $18 on $1,000, but with property values declining, the $18 may now be collected on a property valued at $150,000 instead of $200,000. When you couple that decline with the fact that taxes were capped at a time of limited investment and budget cuts, then you have what amounts to forced austerity for city spending, which results in the city not having the means to invest in its future. It's no surprise that issues like the quality of education, the availability of public transit, and the state of sidewalks and roads have come to a head after four years of the tax cap which was preceded by four years of budget cuts.
Manchester needs to raise its taxes in order to properly invest in its future. And if higher taxes mean better schools, sidewalks and so forth, then I think people will agree that it's a worthwhile trade-off. And if they don't, then there's always the "tax cap" of elections every other year. But without increased revenue and sustainable funding, it's going to be very hard for the city to get private developers to want to invest in the city, or to get families to want to set up or keep roots in Manchester.
The city also needs better assistance from the state, as well as more flexibility in how it generates revenue. Suburbs like Bedford, Hooksett and Londonderry directly benefit from their proximity to Manchester and the sort of amenities it alone in the region can provide, but because of municipal boundaries they don't have to help fund the many needs that a city like Manchester has that more affluent suburbs don't. The same is also true, though more indirectly, of towns elsewhere in the state, which benefit from amenities like the airport and the availability of major businesses in Manchester, but don't have to fund the infrastructure or social services there. That's unfair and untenable. A simple, low income tax (perhaps accompanied by a decent homestead exemption for local property taxes) could offset the costs that communities like Manchester now bear, ensuring a more equitable revenue source, both in terms of the individual ability to pay and in addressing needs that don't follow town lines. Assuming that an income tax is not in the cards, then cities and towns in the state should be given greater flexibility in assessing taxes and fees, so that Manchester could, say, add .25% to the state's 9% hospitality tax. It doesn't sound like much, and most diners and travelers probably wouldn't notice the difference, but it could allow Manchester to make some money on its vibrant dining and hotel economy.