Students, school officials from Berlin, Pittsfield plead for more funding from state. May 2019

Students and school officials from some of New Hampshire’s most economically challenged communities made a plea Tuesday for more funding from the state.

The students called on state senators to take action to secure more funds. “Every year, we’re set up to lose more and more, and at some point, there’s going to be nothing left,” said Stefne Ricci*, of Pittsfield.

The students said schools in places such as Pittsfield and Berlin are struggling with deep budget cuts because of the loss of state stabilization funding.

“I’m just scared we’re going to lose a lot of stuff that we have now — sports, band,” said Berlin fifth grader Aubrie Brochu.

In some cases, it has already gone further than that. Berlin plans to close its last elementary school at the end of this academic year. School officials said that since 2016, the district has lost $2 million in state aid meant to help property-poor towns.

“We do not have the financial resources to be able to raise property taxes to the equal values of other districts that have a lot of taxable property,” Berlin Superintendent Corinne Cascadden said.

“We’re here because we’re desperate,” said Nicole Plourde, chairwoman of the Berlin School Board. “We have cut everything we possibly could cut. We’ve closed a school, and just in order to keep taxes flat, we have to cut another $500,000 after being flat-lined. It’s not sustainable.”

The budget passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate would restore stabilization aid to 2016 levels.

“At a minimum, restoration of stabilization keeps us going for another year until we figure out what goes on,” Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said.

Students said their futures are at stake.

“We need to learn, or we don’t get jobs,” Berlin fifth grader Hannah Melendy said.

CONCORD, N.H.- WMUR. See the video and original article here

*Stefne Ricci is a Youth Leader and Board Member with Pittsfield Listens.