Despite a gaping hole in the education fund, lawmakers set the rate used to calculate property taxes using assumptions local school budget voters had before them in March.
This looming once-in-a-century fiscal crisis is going to require hard once-in-a-century fiscal choices this summer.
A fully funded, fully functioning public education system has to be a top priority.
Voters approved budgets that had school spending on track to increase by $73 million next year. As the coronavirus crisis wreaks havoc on the economy, a reckoning is in the offing.
The impact of the economic slowdown on property taxes rates isn’t yet clear, but other sources of revenue into the education fund are slumping.
The nearly 100-page report recommends that poor students and English-language-learners be weighted substantially more heavily than they are now.
Most states rely much more heavily on local revenues than Vermont does, which has almost entirely eliminated local funding for public education.
When the next recession hits, our ability to finance these three continued trends will be put to the test.
Lawmakers advanced a proposal to draw funding for lake cleanup from a tax that currently feeds into the education fund. In its place, they’d set up new taxes.
Voters rejected only three of 95 budgets. Another 20 school budgets still have yet to go to voters.
The decision could bring in between $3m and $10m in additional revenue in the next fiscal year, helping alleviate education funding pressure.
Ways and Means Chair Janet Ancel revised a proposed education tax reform plan because she says it would have harmed low income Vermonters. In response, her panel has instead introduced a new surcharge on the income tax.
“I think most of us recognize most Vermonters can not afford this, which adds to the sense of urgency.”
Members said schools and communities are overwhelmed and overtaxed already. The board also questioned maintaining state grants for small schools.