Resolution calls on lawmakers to take action during the 2015 session
KILLINGTON — The Killington Selectboard has joined municipal leaders from South Burlington, Dorset, Fairlee and Huntington to call on Vermont’s lawmakers for an overhaul of the State’s education funding system. In a letter and formal resolution sent to Montpelier last week, the Selectboard urged lawmakers to take action on education property tax reform during the 2015 legislative session.
The Resolution for Sustainable Education Funding Reform in Vermont, a two-page document summarizing the challenges and unsustainability of the current system, requests a two-year freeze on property taxes as the Legislature seeks out the necessary reforms to the state’s troubled education funding system. The document includes statistics on per-pupil spending over the last decade. The resolution was developed by the Town of Dorset following a statewide conference in South Burlington on Aug.14. Representatives from over 100 municipalities and school boards met to discuss the limitations of the current education funding system. Cities of all sizes from Burlington (pop. 42,282) to Killington (pop. 885) echoed common themes and problems with the current system.
Most prominent were:
School enrollments continue to decline while performance indicators remain flat and education costs rise, demonstrating how unsustainable the current system is.
Year after year, rising education property taxes significantly limit municipalities’ ability to craft
necessary municipal budgets to pay for the basic services they are tasked to provide.
Killington Selectboard member Ken Lee says the need for change is shared statewide. “Towns and school boards from across the state are in agreement that the current system is wrong for Vermont,” says Lee. “We need a new system that is simple for people to understand and reins in the unsustainable spending policies.”
Lee says the movement to reform the Act 60/68 system is taking hold at the grassroots level, as more municipalities are faced with rising education property taxes year after year. “Unfortunately, what we are seeing and heard at the conference in South Burlington is: due to rising education property taxes, towns often have to defer local projects or investments they really need like roads, fire and police services.”
Killington Town Manager Seth Webb says, “We would like the state to recognize the negative effects of Act 60 and 68 and work to reform the system.”
Webb says the current funding system is also inhibiting the growth of tourism communities throughout Vermont. “Tourism is one of the pillars of Vermont’s economy. By placing huge tax burdens on tourism towns like ours, Act 60 and 68 have dramatically limited businesses’ ability to reinvest in capital improvements and marketing and keep pace with their competitors in other states. This means, while well intentioned, State education tax policy is currently limiting tourism growth which we know is essential to Vermont’s economic well being.”
Vermont cannot ignore the current trends and the limitations of our property tax base. Without responsible funding system reforms, Vermont schools will be forced to undergo arbitrary and detrimental budget cuts that will affect the quality of education in Vermont.
Vermont can achieve a sustainable education future and create a more diverse education funding system, by sharing the costs equally between all our tax resources (income, sales, rooms & meals, and property taxes) and simplifying the education funding system so it can be understood by the average taxpayer, the resolution states.