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Isle La Motte residents upset over property tax hike - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Isle La Motte residents upset over property tax hike

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ISLE LA MOTTE, Vt. -

Property taxes are on the rise in one Vermont town and officials say their town isn't the only one at risk.

Residents of Isle La Motte are upset over a massive hike to their education tax rate. When the school board ran a deficit two years in a row, the state stepped in and said taxpayers must now pay up.

"I came home the other night, opened the mail and there was just this whopping tax bill," said Bob Camp of Isle La Motte.

When Isle La Motte residents got their property taxes in the mail, they noticed a larger amount owed than they expected. Sarah Peacock, the chair of the Isle La Motte school board, says the state is to blame.

"What really needs to change is the way the state calculates spending," Peacock said.

Permanent Isle La Motte residents saw a 50 percent increase in their education tax rate or per pupil spending. The local school board had budgeted for a 24 percent increase, but a large budget shortfall forced the state to step in.

"About a $200,000 deficit that we had to pull a line of credit for. The state mandates that we have to take at least a third of that and put it into the already adopted budget," said Peacock.

In 2013, residents paid a tax rate of $1.46. The school board budgeted to raise that level to $1.81. So, residents were stunned when the state set the final rate at $2.21.

"You know it kind of makes you choke on your coffee," said Camp.

The budget deficit was caused by five new middle and high school students moving into the district -- raising the total from 30 to 35.

Because Isle La Motte does not have a high school, taxpayers pay for those students to study elsewhere that process is called "tuitioning out."

"To be honest this could happen to any town that tuitions out their students," said Peacock.

Camp has lived in Isle La Motte since 2004. He says he and his neighbors are furious.

"There are going to be pitchforks on that island," said Camp.

Peacock said she hopes the state will change its laws so taxpayers aren't punished.

"We have to have some kind of property tax reform in this state that changes that calculation. If we're going to be penalized for students that move into our town, we should be able to benefit from them as well," said Peacock.

If the town had been able to count those five students in its per pupil calculation, it would have eased their budget shortfall. After two straight budget deficits the state raised the tax rate in hopes of alleviating the burden on future budgets. 

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