Mad River towns begins Act 60 petition drive

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(Host) A new citizens’ group wants towns to challenge the Act 60 school funding law in court. The group calls itself “ReAct 60,” and it’s begun a petition drive to ask town boards to file suit. The group hopes to build on a successful case brought by the town of Killington.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) In the Killington case, a judge ruled last fall that the state used an arbitrary statistical method to calculate property values for the education tax. The decision is on appeal, and it applied only to Killington. But now a new citizens’ group wants towns to file a barrage of lawsuits against the state.

The group is based in the Mad River Valley, where the resort communities are considered “gold” towns under the Act 60 school funding law. These are the property-rich towns around Vermont that send more money to the state than they get back to pay for education.

Jim Parker is a businessman in Warren who’s organized the petition effort. He says the concern over Act 60 extends beyond the gold towns:

(Parker) “As more towns fall under the property rich or gold town status, I think that there are towns out there in close proximity – for instance to Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston – that could be looking at becoming gold towns, as their property values rise.”

(Dillon) The Vermont League of Cities and Towns has also encouraged its members to appeal the state’s method of calculating the towns property values. League Executive Director Steve Jeffrey says the Killington decision should also prompt the Legislature to re-examine Act 60:

(Jeffrey) “It went into great depth to call into question the state’s methodology that it uses to raise $700 million in property taxes. And we feel that certainly left enough questions to require that, number the one that individual towns make sure that their individual values are fair for their own taxpayers. But number two, that we work with the Legislature to again assure that the statewide process that is used does result in a fair and equitable tax structure for funding education.”

(Dillon) The Mad River Valley citizens group says it has about 800 signatures on its petition that calls on towns to file the Act 60 lawsuit. The groups hopes towns will consider the petitions in January.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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