Burlington School District passes tax increase to put on ballot

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Burlington School District is seeking voters’ approval to raise their taxes by a few hundred dollars a year.

School district officials presented the budget plan before the City Council on Tuesday night.

The proposal asks for an income tax increase of 3.18 percent and a property tax increase of 7.36 percent. The question will appear on the March 2020 ballot. If voters approve the tax increase, people in Burlington will pay one of the two taxes depending on their income. If someone makes fewer than $50,000 a year, they will pay the income tax. If someone’s annual income is more than $50,000 and/or they live in a home that is valued at at least $250,000, they will pay the property tax.

If the tax passes, the average property taxpayer would end up contributing about $30 a month for a total of $357 a year.

Superintendent Yaw Obeng says the money will go toward several school improvement programs such as safe schools funding.

“That will deal with issues of safety and equity and inclusion within our schools because we know safety and well-being is the first priority. Before you even get to learning and when parents send their kids to our schools, they want to make sure they feel welcomed, they belong and they feel safe,” Obeng said.

Some residents say they want to support the cause but they’re worried they can’t. Rajnii Eddins is in favor of it as long as the tax is based on each person’s individual income.

“As long as it's drawn equitably and it's really going to serve children's needs and family’s needs, then it makes sense,” said Eddins. “If it's something that's across the board that's going to hurt other families disproportionately, I think that it should definitely be looked at.”

Councilors shared similar concerns for people living in their districts.

“I think they're thinking long and hard and if they say no, that doesn't mean they don't support schools or support the city. It means that they can't afford it,” said Sharon Bushor, I-Burlington City Council.

Obeng says he understands those hesitations but is confident in the school district’s budget planning. When asked if he feels confident voters will support the tax, Obeng said he’s not sure.

"I think in the next couple of weeks, we’ll have to do a lot of work to explain to people why we’re putting these items forward,” said Obeng.“These are not just things we’re putting out there and saying we want. And at the end of the day, they’ll get a chance to choose. It’s up to the community to decide.”

Some of the school district’s other priority areas are substance abuse prevention, early literacy professional development and field trip funding.

After the school board presented before the City Council, they held a separate meeting to discuss some of the feedback given by the council. They ultimately voted unanimously to pass the budget as written.