By Karen Horn
Much of the most heated discussion in the State House every year centers around the exceedingly high property taxes that Vermonters pay relative to property taxes in the rest of the country. According to both the Tax Foundation and VT Tax Study, Vermont raises more than 40 percent of its revenues from property taxes. Vermont consistently ranks in the top five or six states in terms of property taxes paid per person or per $1,000 of income.
The state Legislature initially touted school district consolidations as a mechanism to bend the property tax curve (an opinion they rescinded in 2016). As well, just last month, the Vermont Agency of Education issued its list of amounts that school districts must save in health care costs – or somewhere else in the budget – as a result of Act 85 and the fierce debate around negotiating new health care benefits for school employees. The new Harwood Unified Union School District is directed to find $293,633 in health care cost savings as a result of Act 85.
This year, several Harwood Unified Union School District towns were to see much needed decreases in their property tax – as a result of consolidation. In fact, the new unified school district consolidation did its part for homestead filers in Moretown. The education tax rate went down by 15 cents from last year for homestead properties in Moretown to $1.5759. It increased by 7 cents on the nonresidential side to $1.5581. After years of relentless increases, finally some relief for homestead property taxpayers in this town.
Not so fast. You may have noticed by now that your tax bill went up. According to the Moretown Select Board minutes in August 2016 and August 2017, it turns out that the municipal tax rate doubled in Moretown from $0.26 last year to $0.52 this year, an increase of 26 cents per hundred dollars of value on your property.
While it is normal and expected that property taxes will increase from year to year to cover ordinary growth in expenses, your property taxes went up not insignificantly. I suspect most Moretown residents’ incomes did not go up at anything like that rate.
How did a doubling of Moretown’s municipal tax rate become necessary?
Horn lives in Moretown.