Rutland officials meet to meet on tax rate

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(Host) In a typical year, Rutland City residents would be getting out their checkbooks to pay their property tax bills by the end of the month.

But this is not a typical year.

As of today, residents don’t even know for certain what their tax rate will be.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, local officials will meet tonight to remedy that.

(Keck) Rutland City Aldermen voted back in June to set a $22.9 million budget, and they had until July 20th to determine the city’s tax rate. But that deadline came and went, largely, officials say, because a city wide reassessment of property values took much longer to complete.

Al Wilkinson, Rutland City Treasurer, says it was important to get an accurate grand list and make sure that anyone who wanted to file a grievance on their assessment was heard. That all took time. He says new tax rules also bogged down the process.

(Wilkinson) “With Act 60 and Act 68 the state of Vermont sets the base tax rate on both the residential homestead and the non-residential tax rates. And they changed the formulas somewhat this year and there have to be special exceptions for subsidized housing. And we have a lot of subsidized housing in Rutland, so the assessor is working with the people from the state to balance out the subsidized housing so that we can get an accurate grand list from them.”

(Keck) Wilkinson says most Rutland residents should expect a higher tax bill than in previous years. The last citywide assessment was completed in 1988 and he says residential property values have increased significantly – even more than commercial properties.

Christopher Louras, a member of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, says residents can get a fairly accurate estimate of their taxes by multiplying their property value by $ 2.20. He says the budget that has been passed by the board is lean – something he says voters were demanding.

Over the past several months, there has been growing criticism of city officials with letters to the editor complaining of infighting among Rutland’s Board of Aldermen, budget oversights and alleged incompetence in city hall. Treasurer Al Wilkinson says they’ve been working hard over the past several months to straighten out and update the city’s antiquated accounting system and he’s optimistic the job is getting done.

Alderman Christopher Louras says many of the people he’s hearing from are getting tired of all the finger pointing and just want local officials to get the job done.

(Louras) “What I haven’t been hearing the last couple of weeks is: Them – What are those people doing? What’s going on at city hall? What’s the problem? Whose fault is it? People are past that. They just want to know when they’re going to get their tax rate and how much it’s going to be.”

(Keck) Because of the delay in sending out tax bills, the city took out a 90-day $5 million loan to cover payroll and other expenses. City officials say as long as local residents pay their taxes by the end of September, paying off that loan should not be a problem.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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