Last year there were only 17 students enrolled in Waterville Valley Elementary School. This year the number has nearly tripled, an increase largely due to students who have moved to the area since the start of 2020. Meanwhile, the city’s population has grown by around 25%, to 559 residents. full-fledged, said CEO Mark. Decoteau.
Waterville Valley is a particularly dramatic example, but far from the only one. Now that the pandemic has opened up opportunities for many people to live, work and learn remotely, some are taking the opportunity to nestle in isolated corners of New Hampshire where Covid-19 activity is far from being as serious as that of the big cities. Real estate agents in some areas of the state are attracting more interest from out-of-state buyers, and school districts in more mountainous areas where second home ownership is more common are seeing now new students enroll.
The reason, said Conway City Manager Thomas Holmes, is “they want to get out of the towns, and they want a place to go – head for the hills, as they say – in case we have. another outbreak or pandemic problems in the metropolis. areas. “
There have been a lot of people in town who own second home properties who suddenly moved their license plates out of state to local plates and decided to become full time residents, he said. declared.
At Mount Washington Valley, School Administrative Unit 9, Superintendent Kevin Richard welcomed approximately 25 new students. Although Richard is used to the comings and goings of students, he said there was a clear trend related to the pandemic this year.
“We have this transient population coming in or going out, but that’s the anomaly. I would say these 25, where their conditions are a bit easier to recognize as it’s related to Covid-19, ”said Richard.
Six or seven college students signed up because their families are now living full time in their second home.
“Normally they wouldn’t be in school. They have a home school elsewhere, ”said Richard.
Richard believes the increase is linked to more remote work opportunities.
“A lot of these people usually work in cities all week, and they come on weekends, but now with a big push towards remote work, people are like, ‘Well I guess we can live and work here and make it work, ”he said.
In addition to the increase in registrations and license plate transfers, there have been fewer short-term rentals at Conway, Holmes said. Right now, there are around 500 Airbnb-style properties in the city, up from 800 in 2019.
“A lot of these things have been taken off the short-term rental market due to the pandemic and maybe some people want to keep them open so they can run or move,” he said, noting that he does not do it personally. know someone who has, but the drop in short-term rentals has been significant.
Not all popular second home areas in New Hampshire see this kind of influx of new student enrollments. School officials in Laconia, Moultonborough and Alton said they had not seen a significant increase in enrollment.
Richards said the booming real estate market in Conway can make it difficult for young teachers to find housing.
Waterville Valley school officials did not respond to questions about the peak enrollment, but Decoteau said he knew the school had had to hire additional staff and the equipment budget for the school had to increase due to the increase in the number of students.
The school system’s budget was pushed back in March for the school year, before the district expected an increase in enrollment.
“They were saying at the school district meeting in March, March 9, that they expected about 20 students for the school year, and their budget was based on that number,” Decoteau said.
In New Hampshire, about 70% of school funding comes from local taxes, said Phil Sletten, senior policy analyst at the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.
“When you consider how local school districts are funded, with over 70% of funding coming in some form or another from local property tax revenues, this means that adding additional students has the potential to exercise. upward pressure on local property taxes depending on what happens with the property tax base, ”he said.
If the property tax base – the pool of taxable goods –
also increases, so it’s not necessarily an upward pressure on property tax rates or the amount collected per person, he noted. However, that doesn’t happen when people move into existing homes in towns like Conway.
Bruce Kneuer, municipal office supervisor at the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, said having more students might require more taxes in the next budget cycle.
“The following year, the tax rate itself would likely be impacted,” he said.
Decoteau said an increase in listings would not immediately impact the 2020 tax rate in the Waterville Valley, which has one of the lowest property tax rates in New Hampshire. Decoteau said the costs will be reflected in the tax rate in 2021.
“It will be interesting and important for us to see how many are left and what the long term impact will be on the city and our schools,” he said. “How many students are actually here in the 21-22 school year?” “
This article is shared by the partners of The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborationnh.org.