Republican lawmakers pitch amendment that would 'repeal and replace' Act 60
The House of Representatives is voting on the statewide property tax rate on Thursday. The bill, H.889, will increase the tax rate by 4 cents for residential property owners (per $100 of value) and 7.5 cents for non-residential property owner. Each penny generates about $11 million for the Education Fund.
Tax rates went up 5 cents for homesteads last year and 6 cents for non-residential property last year.
Vermont is the only state that has a equalized funding from district to district via a statewide property tax that was put in place after Vermont's court determined in the Brigham decision that students must receive an adequate education, no matter where they live.
Forty-three towns this year lowered school spending and yet local tax rates went up, Komline and Scheuermann said.
"Vermonters are frustrated by the property tax and there is no relief in sight," Komline said.
"Every year we wring our hands," Komline said, but nothing gets done. Instead, the governor blames the school boards and the school boards blame Montpelier, she said.
Scheuermann said lawmakers knew last year that rates were going to go up again and "yet did nothing to solve the problem." Meanwhile, she said, people are "suffering," and it has become harder for towns to raise money locally for town budgets because the school portion of the local property tax rate is climbing. (Tax rates are set locally and include school and town budgets.)
"Property taxes are suffocating Vermont families and our thousands of small businesses," Scheuermann said.
Scheuermann, who is considering a run for governor, says the proposal would sunset the current law on July 1, 2016. "Then we actually have to do something," she said.
Scheuermann's previous attempts to change Act 60 and 68 have failed. This year, she and Komline launched an online petition, asking Vermonters to support their "repeal and replace" amendment. At a press conference on Wednesday, they handed out 11 pages of comments from signatories who are fed up with the state's school funding system. About 1,000 people have signed the petition, Komline said.
The Scheuermann and Komline amendment would require the Legislature to adopt an equitable funding system that is less complicated, improve educational opportunities for students and reconnect taxpayers with budget decisions. The amendment does not include a detailed proposal for a new funding system. In an interview, House Speaker Shap Smith rejected Scheuermann's proposal. "The idea of putting on the table a replacement amendment without an alternative is irresponsible," Smith said. H.889 includes a provision that sets a deadline for reform of the tax system on Jan. 1, 2017, and requires that the Legislature consider the incorporation of an education income tax. Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. April 3.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.