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  • 30 Oct 2014

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  • 31 Oct 2014

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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673
802-496-3928
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Taxageddon

By Win Smith

Two weeks ago, Ron Geren wrote a very pertinent letter to the editor about his increased property tax bill. Noting that his taxes had risen significantly and that he lives on a fixed income, he highlighted the obvious. Ron and many others will now be spending less and this has an impact on all the farmers and businesses in The Valley.

My own homestead tax bill went up over 18 percent as did the property taxes for Sugarbush. The biggest factor this year was the 77 percent increase in the municipal tax rate. It is important to remember, however, that although the school tax rate went up only 6 percent, it still represents over 70 percent of our total tax bill.

The select board of Warren presented their highway budget at Town Meeting and outlined $840,000 of needed repairs on Inferno Road and West Hill Road. Although the explanation was thorough and these roads certainly needed repair, when the budget was approved unanimously by those in attendance I doubt that many voters understood how much the expense would impact this year's tax rate. It's one thing to agree to a road project, but it's quite another to agree to a 77 percent boost in the municipal tax rate. In the future, a projected municipal tax rate or at least a range of projected rates should be part of the presentation (as it is in the school budget presentation) to allow for a more informed discussion in April and not an unpleasant surprise when tax bills are issued in July.

While this year's tax bill focuses us on the municipal rate, the real issue is our broken education funding system. Warren collects $9.7 million in school taxes, 75 percent of which comes from nonresidents and businesses who do not even have a vote. With all of the new development and enhancements in Warren over the past decade, one would think that both our municipal tax rate and our school tax rate would be going down or at the very least would remain stable. Sadly, that is not the case.

Over $6.5 million of our school tax dollars are sent elsewhere in Vermont, with scant evidence that the statewide education tax has improved the quality of our educational system. Do receiving towns need synthetic playing fields when Harwood students play on natural grass? Do we really need the unnecessary overhead of over 60 supervisory unions at a cost of $32 million? The punishing cost of education is siphoning the tax capacity out of our community and making the municipal budget that much more difficult to bear.

On average, Vermont spends $12,800 per student, which is the third highest in the United States. In the past decade, student enrollment has fallen from a peak of 110,000 to below 90,000 while education spending has risen over 70 percent. If a business managed itself in the same way or if a household budgeted like this, bankruptcy would be declared. We have to fix this problem or we can forget about paving our roads. Education taxes will drive us back to the horse and buggy. We all want quality education for our children. But throwing money around like we have been is not producing the desired result and is raising taxes unnecessarily for all.

If you agree with these sentiments, I would encourage you to contact our elected officials. The names and email addresses for our state legislators are:

Ann Cummings: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Anthony Pollina: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Bill Doyle: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Adam Greshin: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maxine Grad: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Unless our elected officials hear from voters and other stakeholders of Vermont who are crucial to our economic wellbeing, I doubt that any change will occur and the result will be a decline in The Valley we love.

Win Smith lives in Warren.

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