School tax could rise
Superintendent William Bazyk approached the board last week with what he described as good news and bad news. The good news, he said, was that they had managed to limit the budget increase to 1.5 percent. The bad news is that the town's homestead education tax rate is still expected to increase considerably, by 9.8 cents per $100 in appraised value.
"The board did very well with this budget," said Bazyk, "coming in under 2.5 percent [as Gov. Phil Scott requested of districts during the budgeting process], holding staffing levels, and on top of that providing good services for our children."
The reason that the tax rate is increasing much more than the budget is the property tax yield adjustment, a figure set by the Legislature that forms the baseline for determining tax rates. The rate is projected to be lowered from last year, and the lower the rate, the higher taxes will be, regardless of spending in any individual district. The Scott administration warned this month that an increase was coming, and that it could average as high as 9.4 cents.
"If the state had not come out with that increase, we would have only had a nominal increase in town, almost a flat rate from last year," Bazyk said.
For a homestead valued at $200,000, a 10-cent rate increase would equate to about an additional $200 compared with this year.
"For some people that's not a big deal, for others it's a lot of money," he said.
"Unfortunately, I don't think a 10-cent increase is going to be a lot around the state this year, in comparison," Bazyk said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens around the state, but my guess is that you're
going to be seeing double-digit increases."
Arlington's student population is down by about 10 equalized pupils compared to last year. The state uses the weighted equalized pupil figure, rather than real student population, to when determining tax rates. In the equalized pupil calculation, students that are more expensive to educate, such as secondary students, students with disabilities, and students for whom English is a second language, are weighted higher.
"What's been happening in Arlington in the past," said Bazyk, "which is very good, over the last four or five years you've been slightly increasing your number of equalized pupils and you've benefited from that. The projections are that it's probably going to level off."
Even if the numbers do stabilize and don't begin to trend downward, he said, "You still have to stabilize your spending. Unfortunately, its very difficult to stabilize your spending in school districts because you have raises, [etc.]. Eighty percent of your costs are wages, and you have things our of your control, like health care."
The board did not vote to finalize the budget, but will continue working on it prior to its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 24.
Derek Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.
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