Addressing the projected increase in property taxes: Time for accurate information, honest analysis, and joint problem-solving
Feb 06, 2014 | 4510 views | 2 2 comments | 267 267 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Stephen Dale

Vermont School Boards Association Executive Director

Governor Shumlin’s recent commentary about school budgets and property taxes is disappointing and has responses ranging from bewilderment to outrage from Vermont’s school board members.   The governor’s comments in his budget address and at a recent press conference are misleading to a confused public and intended to create space between the governor and projected increases in property taxes.

 In his budget remarks, the governor stated, “I am not at all happy that Vermonters will once again bear an increase of five to seven cents in the statewide property tax rate next year based upon projections for local school spending.”   This statement is misleading.   Any increase in property taxes this year reflects multiple factors—some related to local spending, some reflecting the absence of one-time funds applied by the state in past years, some resulting from declining property values, and some by the failure of the administration and the Legislature to properly support the education fund.  In 2005, only 61% of the education fund was provided through property taxes.   In 2014, that figure has risen to 68%.   That is one major driver of property tax increases.

 Vermont school boards are very concerned about the cost of education and property tax pressures.  Although proposed budgets have not been finalized in all districts, most are quite modest.   A scan of statewide media sources reveals numerous accounts of intense public meetings where boards have proposed substantial reductions in staff.   Vermont’s school boards are responsibly developing budgets in their efforts to balance the needs of students and taxpayers. 

These efforts occur in the context of an ever-expanding list of obligations imposed by the state and federal governments.   Vermonters, on Town Meeting day, will review those budgets and determine whether enough work has been done to reconcile interests and meet new obligations.

 In a year when property taxes are projected to rise at a rate greater than the percent increase   in proposed budgets, we all owe it to the citizens of Vermont to be sure that we and they understand the moving parts, have properly defined the problems, and have set out to solve them.  We don’t want voters rejecting school budgets based on frustration due to their inability to make sense of a confusing funding system.  If that happens, it is the education of children that will suffer.    Where local spending increases are inappropriately high, those need to be addressed by local voters.   Where the state’s education finance system is contributing to high property taxes by underfunding the education fund, that needs to be addressed by the governor and the Legislature.    

Most important, all elected officials must seek to understand the situation, define problems, and set out to solve them, rather than engaging in finger-pointing and blame and seeking to confuse the electorate.  

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February 13, 2014
There is a lot to be said on this topic and in the future I am sure local taxpayers ( of which I am one ) will become more irate as changes evolve. One of the most interesting times of the year is following the proposed legislation on the table, the supporters of that legislation and conclude their motives, which are almost always self-serving to their own community's needs.School Boards are responsible for budgets and staying within....but if the state has their way, in the very near future,school boards will be nothing mote than a body whose signature is required to pay the district's bills. I have not seen any discussions on how they propose to get around that yet, but I am sure its on their minds.

The actual amount of dollars a board is actually responsible for is shrinking each year. The state has passed items to allow the Supervisory Unions to control all bussing contracts, Act 156 allows them to control all SPED costs and there is another bill that allows the Supt to select and hire all teachers in a school district, and lastly one biggie that is on the horizon ( and supported by the NEA ) is a unified state teachers contract, where again locals have no say. So in the future with all the above mentioned under the state's control all any local board will get to decide is if the rest rooms use White Cloud or Charmin...just sign the warrants the state puts on the table.

My only question to the readers out there now is...how many of you follow these issues, realize the negative impact it would mean for your community or district and actually voice your opinions to those involved in making these decisions? If you thinks its bad today, you haven't seen anything yet !
areader2
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February 07, 2014
why can't these school boards learn to spend within their budget? year after year it's more, more, more spending, and what are we getting for our money? well look at the average teenager today and you be the judge of that, someone needs to reign/snap these school boards back to reality and teach THEM to spend within their budget like the rest of us have to, stop with the smoke and mirrors and learn to control spending, they have lost touch with reality and are completely out of control!