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Vermont is not part of a rational world

10/11/2007

To The Editor:

As an octogenarian, I am not only amazed that I'm here at all but also by all the new things that I'm learning. For example, along came my property tax bill from the Town of Warren! So I decided to explore the internet (my 12-year-old grandson helps with the hard stuff, but I can tell him a thing or two about the abacus), and I talked to a few folks around here.

What did I learn? The school tax from the town isn't a town tax, it is a state tax! The town is budgeting $2,800,000 for its schools but sending $6,200,000 off to Montpelier. The school taxes are 86 percent of all "town" taxes. Two-thirds of the total is derived from non residents which are second home owners and vacant land, neither of which have many children in school here. Think about it! What would the local economy be like with another $6.2 million to spend?

The state asserts that the property tax covers only 60 percent of the state education cost. In Warren it covers 320 percent. School taxes, 2007 vs. 2005 are up 38 percent. I would think this would irritate residents enough that their elected representatives would notice it.

In a rational world, if the "Grand List" goes up significantly because of new construction and costs are held to a reasonable increase and you don't attract a value increase to your property, your taxes go down. Right? Vermont is not a part of a rational world. I am told on good authority that the new residents of Clay Brook "couldn't believe their taxes" which totaled $761,000 of new tax money this year, or 7.5 percent of all taxes raised. Did your taxes go down? Do you think those buyers will tell their friends to come buy at Clay Brook or any other place in the Mad River Valley for that matter?

What is happening to increase education costs in Vermont? It boggles the mind, but it must be the decline in student enrollment, combined with the decline in mental and physical capacity of the remaining students. Do wet sidewalks cause rain? Maybe so. The internet offers the "Vermont School Report" for 2002 through 2005, which tells us statewide enrollment is down 3.3 percent, costs are up (PK-12) 12 percent, and special education costs are going up, to 14.3 percent. One-seventh of all costs for special education? If my kids had been exposed to such an environment I would have left town, which is what young Vermonters are doing. Or maybe its because the bright ones are leaving to places where education is better understood. It certainly isn't the case that more funding is the prime driver to improving education. History tells us it is the expectations of parents and the discipline and quality of the students. The school for five hours a day can hardly be expected to be in loco parentis.

Well, having assaulted you with this I feel better. I will go south and plan to pay my tax bill before November 10. But doesn't it seem sensible for you voters to be conscious of what this insanity will do to your economy? It's obvious already what it is doing to the restaurant business -- retired folks like me have less money to spend there and in the shops of The Valley. And reassessment next year will raise my taxes 30 percent? What's your guess about yours?

R.S. Wishart

Warren

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