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Valley property tax adjustments higher than state average

07/19/2007

By Lisa Loomis

More data from the Vermont Department of Taxes shows that the average property tax adjustment (formerly known as a prebate) in The Valley is higher than the statewide average.

Property tax adjustments are payments made to local towns by the state to provide income sensitivity to taxpayers. The adjustments are part of Acts 60 and 68, Vermont's education funding mechanism which levies a statewide property tax on all properties in the state.
 
Last week <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> reported on the average 'adjustment' per property in local towns. Those figures show adjustments that range from a low of $902 in Duxbury to a high of $2107 in Fayston. Warren's average was $1,935, Waitsfield's average was $1,792 and Moretown's average was $1,051.

'ADJUSTMENTS'


Statewide, the average adjustment was $1,153. A total of 109,087 Vermont property owners received such adjustments with $125,404,796 in property taxes 'adjusted.' The adjustments reflect income sensitivity but may also reflect state income tax refunds which taxpayers decided to apply to their property tax bills. Statewide 108,723 property owners received 'adjustments,' and statewide 708 applied their tax refunds to their property tax bill. The amount totaled $293,367 with an average of $414.36.

This is the first year that this system of providing income sensitivity has been in place and the system is somewhat controversial as each property owner's tax bill (which is public information) will show clearly how much of an adjustment has been credited to his/her account.

REFUNDS

Legislators who proposed this method argued that the fact that people can apply their income tax refunds to their property taxes will provide a measure of confidentiality and privacy in terms of their household income as calculable from their 'adjustment,' town tax rate, school tax rate and appraised value of their house.

Tanya Perry, business systems analyst for the state department of taxation, provided that data, along with Ellen Tofferi, also with the state tax department. Part of that data came in response to an email from a Waitsfield taxpayer wherein the taxpayer questioned how the privacy of personal data such as household income could be maintained under this new system.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

". . .the Tax Department counsel's opinion on the matter of names and amounts of property tax adjustments being part of the public record. I understand the logic but has it been tested against actual behavior. The assertion that personal income information is sufficiently obscured because of the combining of tax refunds and property tax prebates is valid only if:

(a.) the numbers of people qualifying for prebates and asking to have their refund applied to their property tax payments are significant.

(b.) the dollar amounts of those refunds are substantial.
Unless these conditions are met, you have only created the illusion of obscuring the information," the taxpayer wrote.

He went on to ask specifically for the number of 'adjustments' distributed statewide, the number of income tax refunds that went towards 'adjustments,' the total dollar amount of the income tax refunds, the average dollar amount and the median.

He noted that he was opposed to making personal tax and income information public, and pointed out that the Vermont Tax Department is providing all the information necessary for private information to be made public.

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