Local News

Legislators offer bandaid to bleeding taxpayers

By Curt Peterson

Ouch! Owners of a modest $250,000 assessed home in Hartland may face a $1,100 property education tax increase for FY2025.

Homeowners are angry and distraught — some fear they can’t afford to stay in their homes. Many blame local school districts, assuming their budgets are bloated.

They’re not the only ones. Legislators and the governor claim the remedy to the “ed tax problem” can only be solved by cutting district budgets.

Nicky Buck, chair of the Hartland School Board, told the Mountain Times their $11 million budget would have to be reduced by $500,000 to cut the ed tax increase from 41% to 25%. A line-by-line analysis of the Hartland school budget reveals conclusively: no frivolous spending.

“We would have to cut $3 million to avoid any tax increase, before theCLA [Common Level of Appraisal] is applied,” Buck said.

Hartland is going to delay their budget vote as the state has recently allowed.

The CLA adjusts the taxable value of a town’s grand list according to recent sales price records so that properties are assessed accurately for state education taxes. The lower the CLA, the larger the tax adjustment. Hartland’s CLA is 69%. Killington’s CLA, lowest in the state, is 52.35%.

Sherry Sousa, Mountain View Supervisory Union (MVSU) superintendent, told the Mountain Times their board reduced their FY2025 $30,000,000 budget by $672,479. MVSU is a consolidated district including Killington, Woodstock, Plymouth, Pomfret, Barnard, Bridgewater and Reading.

“We lost one librarian position,” Sousa said, “but we managed to make the cuts by delaying an HVAC project and some debt payoffs.” MVSU adjusted their budget in time for the March 5 Town Meeting.

Lawmakers say boards are “expected to adjust their budgets,” and local districts say the Legislature and the Agency of Education are the cause for the steep tax increases, not the local schools.

Sousa pointed to some of the “unfunded mandates” imposed on districts in the past ten years as evidence.

“The Department of Education requires we provide after-school activities and universal meals, mental health care and support for special needs students, which we are happy to do, but there is no funding with the mandates,” Sousa said.

Until 2007, the state supported school districts through funding infrastructure repairs, maintenance and replacement. That support ceased “due to the recession,” but hasn’t yet resumed. Funding of infrastructure became the responsibility of local school districts.

Many school boards, including MVSU, are floating bond issues to address deteriorating and inadequate facilities.

The 2014 state education fund was 32% of the state budget. In spite of steadily increasing state revenues, that proportion hasn’t continued. In fact, at 32%, the FY2025 ed budget should be $1.4 billion higher than the $2 billion it currently provides.

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