Senate votes to reduce property tax rate

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(Host) The Vermont Senate has voted to reduce the statewide property tax rate that’s used to fund education by eight cents.

During consideration of the bill, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to lower the rate by another cent.

The reduction in the rate was made because the state’s Education Fund has a surplus – generated largely by escalating property values throughout Vermont.

Under this bill the statewide residential rate will fall to $1.02 and the non-residential rate would be reduced to a $1.51.

Republicans, led by Bennington Senator Mark Shepard, argued that there was enough surplus in the Fund to reduce the rate by 9 cents.

He said the additional penny would help offset projected increases in local property tax rates.

(Shepard) “Even with this tax reduction in the rate it’s a huge tax increase, and so school boards and the taxpayers need to really keep their pencils sharp and don’t think that there’s extra room to grow the school budgets, because there isn’t.”

(Host) Senate Finance Chairwoman Ann Cummings says the smaller eight cent reduction is a prudent move.

A number of towns may face higher special education expenses in the coming year and she wants the state to be a position to react.

(Cummings) “We don’t know. That could have a much greater impact on property tax rates in towns if we lower that extra penny now. We don’t have the funds to even have that discussion, so that decision is already made.”

(Host) The Senate rejected Senator Shepard’s amendment to reduce the rate by 9 cents on an 18-to-8 party-line vote. Republicans supported it, Democrats opposed it.

The bill could be on the Governor’s desk soon because the House has already passed similar legislation.

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