HINSDALE, N.H. — Hinsdale is getting an unexpected boost of more than $200,000 from the state’s rooms and meals tax this year.
In 2021, Hinsdale received $411,589 in meals and rooms tax revenues for the previous two years. This year, it will be receiving $643,827, an increase of $232,238 for collections from 2021 and 2022. This is due to both post-pandemic spending and a change in the way the state disburses the revenues.
“For decades the state had been breaking its promise to local communities and diverting these meals and rooms tax revenues to the general fund, rather than sending them to the municipalities,” wrote Sen. Denise Ricciardi, in a notice to the Hinsdale Select Board.
Ricciardi sponsored legislation in the New Hampshire Statehouse sending more money back to all of the towns in the Granite State, targeted as property tax relief.
“It is my hope that these funds will be used to lower the property tax burden on the citizens of Hinsdale,” wrote Ricciardi.
New Hampshire collected about $400 million in rooms and meals tax in 2022.
According to Citizens Count, state law required 40 percent to go back to towns based on their population, but for many years the state shortchanged that revenue sharing. It wasn’t until recently when the Legislature mandated the state begin in 2023 to send back 30 percent to the municipalities.
“The money will go into the general fund and its intent is to be used to reduce property taxes,” said Stevie Diorio, chairman of the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen.
“We are very grateful to receive it and for the efforts of Senator Riccardi and of course we would like to see more,” he said. “We may not make up what was anticipated in the years past but this is a good and timely start.”
Chesterfield, N.H. is also getting a boost, not only in meals and rooms tax revenues, but also a little extra money for bridge and highway maintenance.
“We got about $100,000 over our estimated revenue for the tax,” said Gary Winn, chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen. “It’s always helpful to get extra revenue.”
For 2019 and 2020, Chesterfield received a total of about $375,000 from collections in 2021, and for 2022 it’s getting a total of $585,000.
Up the river, Westmoreland, N.H. got $177,000 in the the previous two years and will get another $276,000, and Walpole, N.H. got $389,000 and is getting $604,000.
In total, the Granite State is sending more than $121 million to its towns and cities from collections for 2022 and sent a little more than $100 million from 2021.
In 2019 and 2020, that total disbursement was just over $68 million each year. That’s the same amount disbursed from 2016, 2017 and 2018, but $5 million more than was disbursed from the years of 2014 and 2015.
New Hampshire’s meals and rooms tax assesses an 8.5 percent tax on room rentals and prepared meals. In October 2021, the tax was lowered from 9 percent.
The tax is collected by hotels, restaurants, caterers, and other businesses, which is then sent to the state.
The state does not keep a database as to how much the businesses collect in each of its town; businesses are responsible for filing the proceeds directly with the state, which then disburses the money on a per capita basis.
“There are many operators who file on a consolidated basis and when they do so they do not break out the [meals and rooms] revenue for each location,” stated a spokesman for the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration. “Therefore, the DRA does not have data for the amount of M&R revenue collected by municipality.”
The remainder goes to the state’s general fund.
In the past, there have been efforts to distribute the funds based on where they are collected, rather than based on population.
“Tourist towns argue they deserve a bigger cut because they carry a larger burden on their infrastructure from tourism,” states Citizens Count, which notes Connecticut River towns generate far less meals and rooms tax revenue than the Seacoast and the North Country. “However, a redistribution could significantly hurt the budgets of communities that lack tourism.”
Some of the money collected goes to pay off principal and interest on certain bonds and notes, while other funds are deposited in the general fund and in the education trust fund.
The N.H. State Treasurer is responsible for disbursing the funds; more information can be found at https://www.nh.gov/treasury/forms-publications/index.htm.
In Vermont, the state collects 9 percent on rooms and all sales of prepared foods and 10 percent on all sales of alcoholic beverages
None of that money is returned to the towns. Sixty-nine percent goes into the state’s general fund, 25 percent to the Vermont Education Fund, and 6 percent to the Vermont Clean Water Fund.
However, towns can ask the state to impose an additional 1 percent local options sales tax and a 1 percent local option on meals and rooms, 70 percent of which goes back to the towns. Those towns include Brattleboro, Dover, Manchester, Stratton, Wilmington and Winhall.