School budgets are on the line at town meetings next week and Gov. Peter Shumlin is urging taxpayers to carefully scrutinize their local spending plans.
The governor's comments come as many communities are facing hefty increases in property taxes to run local schools next year.
"Anyone who says that property taxes are not too high in this state isn't living in the Vermont that I'm living in," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The steep hikes in taxes come even in communities that are keeping spending increases down around the cost of inflation. That is in part because of shrinking enrollments. When schools lose students, they get less state funding. And if they don't cut spending, local property taxpayers have to pay more.
Shumlin says it's an ongoing problem that state and local governments need to work on together.
"I'm not asking people to vote down their school budgets. I'm asking us collectively to work together in light of our declining enrollments to ensure that in the years going forward we don't find our property taxes are rising faster than we can afford them," the governor said.
Vermont currently has the second highest per pupil spending in the country and the lowest student-teacher ratio.
The Legislature is looking at some potential solutions, including school district consolidation and changes in the education funding formula, but none of those ideas are expected to be enacted this year.
Some two-thirds of Vermonters are shielded from the full effects of rising school budgets by the income sensitivity provision that provides tax reductions for household making up to $90,000 a year.