State News

Report recommends fundamental changes to education spending

By Anne Galloway,

A report released on Friday proposes three changes to Vermont’s property tax system.

The changes include: a “renovation” plan that would lead to reductions in school spending; a “variable income tax” proposal that would replace a portion of the property tax revenues with income taxes; and a regional block grant plan that would replace Act 60/68.

The report was authored by an ad hoc group of lawmakers and former state officials. House Speaker Shap Smith called together the Education Working Group in September and the 10-member panel has met every two weeks since.

The panel looked at the complicated issue from different angles that Smith says will spur new ideas and debate.

“My hope is that by putting ideas on table, we’ll get other people to put ideas on the table as well — and we’ll take all comers,” Smith said. “I think that we know that there are challenges with the current system even though I think we often forget we are getting really good results.”

The regional block grant proposal would give the state the authority to determine how much the state will spend on education each year. The money would then be distributed to regions based on student population Smith says the proposal, which would involve a complete overhaul of the existing system, is worth considering.

The panel included: Reps. Mitzi Johnson, Oliver Olsen, Dave Sharpe , Jeff Wilson, Mollie Burke, Chip Conquest, Bernie Juskiewicz, Bill Johnson, former secretary of the Agency of Administration Neale Lunderville, and former House Speaker Gaye Symington.

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