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Vt. property tax hikes may be less than expected - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. property tax hikes may be less than expected

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

This week, Vermonters get their first real peek into what their property taxes might look like next year.

The House Ways and Means Committee led by Chair Janet Ancel, D-Calais, suggests a smaller tax hike than the governor's January proposal.

School budgets rose less than anticipated, shrinking the demand on taxpayers.

"They're still going up. Spending has gone up and people's property taxes unfortunately are also going up," said Ancel.

The penny rate would increase by four cents for residents rather than the seven initially proposed, but non-residents, business owners, and those with more than 2 acres of land will face an eight-cent hike if the plan sticks.

More Vermonters would qualify to pay based on income rather than property value, but the maximum benefit would decrease 25 percent.

The committee voted in favor of the rates in a straw poll.

"We need to do something bold," said Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset.

Members like Komline aren't on board. She says yearly, five-cent rate hikes are unsustainable but keep coming. In an online petition, Komline calls for a repeal of the state's education funding mechanism in two years.

She says that would give the Legislature time to draft a suitable replacement.

"The system has gone far beyond its sell-by date and it's just been patched up far too many times and we just need something. We need to blow it up," said Kromline.

The committee will look at shifting more of the funding burden from property tax to income, but the shift on tax bills would lag behind any change to the law.

"It's time to re-examine how we're funding education in the state in light of declining school enrollment but increasing cost," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington.

Sears is a senior senator who heads the Judiciary Committee. He says the writers of Act 60 didn't envision creating such a substantial tax pinch. Sears said he's not certain what the fix is, but knows lawmakers need to begin working on it this year.

 

This year 36 school budgets failed at the local level. That's significantly more than the average of 17 since 1990.

 

 

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