By Rachel Goff
A new resolution from Vermont League of Cities and Towns to cap increases in property taxes in conjunction with Vermont's education funding system fueled the discussion at the Warren Select Board meeting on Tuesday, October 28.
At the end of the evening, the town decided not to sign the resolution before talking to other Valley towns, saying that something needs to change in the state system and it's not just property taxes.
With regard to Vermont's education funding system, "It's the budgeting side that is the problem," Warren School Board member Rob Rosen said, explaining that every other state determines what a fair and equal education costs, so that towns who want to spend more on their schools can raise it locally.
In Vermont, however, Act 60/68 means that towns with a higher tax base subsidize school budgets in towns with lower tax bases, leaving little incentive for those towns to keep costs down. Thus for Warren, which pays rather than receives, its school budget will continue to increase regardless of its spending. "I'm tired of having to go up in front of you guys every year and say we did a great job, but you have to raise taxes," Rosen told the board.
The state's education funding system is an "issue that has been brewing for years," representative to the state Legislature Adam Greshin said on Tuesday, and in the meantime "we're sucking the money out of all our resources," he said.
While the new resolution, which proposes a cap on increases in property taxes in conjunction to the state's education funding system seems simple enough, "simplicity is the enemy of fairness in public policy," Greshin said. "Any way we change the property tax mechanism, unless we reduce spending we're just shifting pockets," he said, and the board agreed by not signing the resolution until talking to other Valley towns.
When it comes to schools and supervisory unions, throughout Vermont "We have too many buildings," Greshin said, "and too many people in those buildings."
Instead of proposing a cap on increases in property taxes, Vermont towns need politicians to "go out there and be brave ... and propose something that's going to cut spending," Rosen echoed.
"Well, we've got your back," select board member Matt Groom told Greshin. "If you want to go in there and get bloody, go do it," he said.