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How can Vt. lower property taxes and still fund schools? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How can Vt. lower property taxes and still fund schools?

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Municipal leaders are hearing similar complaints from residents around Vermont-- why are property tax bills higher? Thursday, local government officials got together to talk about the school funding formula and the impact on communities.

Dozens of officials met to talk about the current problems towns around Vermont are facing because of property taxes. Leaders from Isle La Motte to Killington say their taxes are going up.

"I think they're too high and I know most of the reason behind our taxes being so high is because of our education system," said Roger Werpy of South Burlington.

Werpy is just one of the many homeowners in Vermont saying property taxes are too high. But property taxes are what pay for a big chunk of the state's school system. And officials say expenses for schools are increasing.

"If we can't figure out a way to level off the increases in spending it just impacts the services we provide in other areas," Waterbury Town Manager Bill Shepeluk said.

School, city and town leaders across Vermont met at South Burlington High School to toss around ideas to try to figure out how to lower the state's property taxes and still fund schools.

"We have 85,000 students in the state. We have 270 or so school districts and people wonder if consolidation might be the answer," Shepeluk said.

The Isle La Motte school district is heavily affected by the education property tax. Bills jumped 50 percent this year because the district is trying to cover a $200,000 deficit and also follow state rules for equitable education funding. School board Chair Sarah Peacock says the current education property tax law says property owners are the ones to foot the bill.

"Show people what can happen under the current funding system and where maybe things could be tweaked so that no town sees a 50 percent increase in their property tax rates," Peacock said.

No laws or policies will be changed as a result of the conference, but attendees say they hope some lessons will be learned after the discussion.

"I want to learn from what happened; I want to understand it. But I want to move on so this doesn't happen again to anybody," Peacock said.

While a 50 percent increase is the biggest extreme in the state, homeowners across Vermont are still feeling the effects of property tax increases.

"I'm not exactly sure what we can do to reduce the expense but we've got to do something, don't we," Werpy said.

School and municipal officials say they hope the conference will send a message to Montpelier and state lawmakers will take a look at the current system.

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