Increased school budgets spike property tax rates - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Increased school budgets spike property tax rates

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He's Vermont's commander in chief, but this Town Meeting Day Gov. Peter Shumlin needed to ask permission before addressing crowds in Richmond and Georgia because he's not a resident in either town.

"Really it's an opportunity for me to hear what's on voters' minds, what challenges they're facing, what we can do better, so it's a real honor to be here," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

School boards in both towns proposed modest increases to the school budgets of about 3 percent to 4 percent.

If voters say yes, property tax rates in the areas could rise by double digits because of quirks in the education funding formula. Some say they'll spend whatever is necessary to educate their kids, but others say they can't afford to spend anymore.

"I am one of those people that are walking around Vermont thinking that if the school needs it, they can have it. I never have an issue with taxes going up. I think our schools need them," said Chasity Wasco, a Georgia voter.

"I'm 81 years old and I'm still working. I try to put what little money I get away for taxes. I've lived in Georgia all my life and I want to stay here. I don't want to go to a home anywhere else," said Georgia voter, Julia Constantine.

State Rep. Carolyn Branagan, R-Gerogia, moderated Georgia's town meeting Tuesday and works on the House committee most intimately involved with tax reform.

She says school budgets across the state will be lower than originally anticipated by the tax commissioner in December.

Less need coupled with other tweaks could cut the state's demand for additional revenue almost in half, resulting in a smaller tax hike.

"There's continuing concern over the process by which we raise money for our schools and I expect that's something the Ways and Means Committee will tackle when we get back," said Branagan.

Branagan says the message she heard from voters over and over again is a desire for a simpler funding system that can deliver a quality education without breaking the bank.

Lawmakers will be hard-pressed to deliver with declining enrollments and the state's appetite for local control.

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