Retirees, others feel the pinch of Vermont’s high property taxes

Vermont homeowners, both working and retired, are well aware of the pain experienced when it comes time to pay the local property tax.

It is especially painful to some “higher income” retirees, too. According to various online sources, including the personal-finance website SmartAsset.com, the average effective property tax rate of 1.78 percent places Vermont at No. 8 in the top 10 highest in the U.S.

In the case of free online services offered by SmartAsset.com, Vermont residents, as well as those of the other 49 states, have a nifty means for calculating their local property taxes based on the municipality where they live.

Wikimedia Commons/John Ramspott

There are many unwanted surprises for unsuspecting taxpayers this tax season. Some have already found out how much more they will be paying when they opened their new property tax bills.

However, as even stated upfront by SmartAsset.com, “Calculating property taxes can be overwhelming.” Just figuring your house’s value along with local tax parameters doesn’t make the pain of paying the property tax any easier to bear.

According to Tax-Rate.org, Vermont’s median income is $62,088 per year. The site states:

“The exact property tax levied depends on the county in Vermont the property is located in. Chittenden County collects the highest property tax in Vermont, levying an average of $4,096.00 (1.61 percent of median home value) yearly in property taxes, while Essex County has the lowest property tax in the state, collecting an average tax of $1,727.00 (1.39 percent of median home value) per year. … [And since] each county in Vermont has its own method of assessing and collecting taxes, as a result, it’s not possible to provide a single property tax rate that applies uniformly to all properties in Vermont.”

Simply explained, property tax rates are established as a percentage of a home’s value. Local property assessments take into account building and improvement values, and property and site values. Property taxes are essential, especially in rural Vermont, as a means to fund public schools, fire and police stations and local government.

In 2018, slightly more than 50 percent of Vermont towns saw an average increase of property tax rates over 2017. Had Republican Gov. Phil Scott not been able to use surplus budget funds to squelch a tax hike, the average rate might have been higher.

Wikimedia Commons/Jd4508

A home in Middlebury valued at $250,000 has an annual property tax of $4,283 (1.713 percent of the assessed home value). Compared to the national average, that $250,000 home in Middlebury would be assessed at 1.211 percent, or $3,028.

Critics of Vermont’s high property tax rates argue that the “ways and means” of using homesteads to fund municipal wish lists are unsustainable based on statewide age and income factors.

As an example — using Smartasset.com’s online calculator — Addison County has an average tax rate of 1.713 percent. A home in Middlebury valued at $250,000 has an annual property tax of $4,283 (1.713 percent of the assessed home value). Compared to the national average, that $250,000 home in Middlebury would be assessed at 1.211 percent, or $3,028.

To express frustration with the high cost of living for retirees, one resident spoke with True North on the condition of anonymity, out of fear of reprisal.

Jim Gallo (not his real name), a retiree from New Jersey on a modest pension and now living in Middlebury, moved to Vermont for the outdoor lifestyle. However, he said he learned there’s a high price for Vermont’s natural beauty and geography, and now regrets retiring in the Green Mountain State.

“I’m paying thousands of dollars more in property tax compared to New Jersey,” Gallo told True North. “I have to pay for my own garbage pickup; I don’t get any other town services either. It’s everything I have to pay for here in Vermont, and for what?

“The local highway department doesn’t even maintain the property the town owns between my fence line and the road. All they do is snow plow in the winter and then they plow me in; I have to dig myself out. Who needs this? If you’re working here and have no choice and you like the Vermont lifestyle, fine. But I retired here.”

Gallo particularly resents the use of property taxes to pay for public education expenses and not those other municipal services included elsewhere. Regarding public education expenses, he said sees student enrollment declining statewide, but not school salaries and other related expenses.

“Of course teachers don’t make great money, but I am paying their salaries along with the salaries of bureaucrats,” he added. “I don’t have any children, so I am not benefiting from much of this.”

As far as some municipal services covered by property taxes in other places, the town sewer in his town stops not far from his house. As a result, he had to install a $35,000 septic/leach field according to local and state law. He said he is unable to connect to the town water line due to his location, which he didn’t know much about at the time of purchase.

His Vermont experience shows not only buyer’s remorse but also a bit of rural shock.

“At least in New Jersey residents had an ombudsman or a community board to help deal with local government or to get things done addressing tax concerns. Here I have no recourse,” he said. “Even if you report a problem to the state they don’t do anything. Vermont is a good-old-boy network. Unlike living in a more cosmopolitan state, there just aren’t enough watchdogs here.”

Appealing assessed property values

If some Vermonters think they’re paying too much property tax, they can appeal their property’s assessed value.

John de Bruin

John de Bruin: “Since Vermont has no real business-tax base (thanks to the restrictive Act 250) the people have been left to pay the difference between lack of business tax revenue and the growing rate of greedy, out of control and wasteful spending at the state level.”

According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s webpage, “The tax appeal process … actually begins with a grievance before the town board of listers. This is a mandatory first step. If you don’t grieve, you can’t appeal. It’s as simple as that.”

The process requires making an appearance before the board of listers on the date of grievance day, which in most towns is typically May or June. The appeal must be presented either in person or by letter on that date.

Despite ongoing efforts by the governor and some lawmakers to hold the line on property tax increases, the outlook isn’t good.

According to community activist John de Bruin, founder of VT802 Alliance, Montpelier’s penchant for increased taxes is the root of most evils in the state, affecting everything from jobs to real estate values.

“Economic stability at the current rate of tax increases by a greedy Vermont legislature is unsustainable for most middle- and lower-income Vermonters,” de Bruin told True North.

He said the ongoing trend of people leaving the state should be a reminder to state leaders in Montpelier that they need to cut spending, and fast.

“Since Vermont has no real business-tax base [thanks to the restrictive Act 250] the people have been left to pay the difference between lack of business tax revenue and the growing rate of greedy, out of control and wasteful spending at the state level. Vermont’s increasing demand on private citizens to pay for their lack of fiscal responsibility will only increase the poverty level.”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org, Wikimedia Commons/John Ramspott, Wikimedia Commons/Jd4508 and John de Bruin
Spread the love

14 thoughts on “Retirees, others feel the pinch of Vermont’s high property taxes

  1. If Vermont what to keep the seniors that grew up here, they need to eliminate school taxes on people over 65 — who have paid their way in life and have no kids in school. They also need write a law that says water and sewer charges will be based on the number of people in a home, and if they want to be really smart and caring for the seniors they will follow states like Georgia that say if you are 65 and sign a statement saying you drive less then 5000 miles a year, there is no annual vehicle inspection, etc.

  2. We just bought 2 bedroom house on 1.5 acres that was built in 2009 in rural Northeast TN for $147.5K, the property tax is less than $800.00 a year. We’re 15 minutes from unlimited outdoor recreation and the price of gasoline is 50 cents a gallon less. I wish I would have moved 20 years ago.

    • Smart move Steve. Think of the extra money in your pocket had you made the move 20 years ago! Then think what you have to show for that money.

      When I left VT I was paying in excess of $5300k on a $275k house. That same house where I live now, ~$1400. To make things simply and assume that both taxes remained static for a 10 year period. In Vt it would of cost me $53,000 in taxes. In the state I’m in now, $14,000 in taxes. A savings of $39000 cash in my pocket. That’s enough to pay cash for an average car in America with money to spare. Or about 2 years in-state college tuition in a typical state school for my kids.

      In VT you get to watch state employees picking up trash on the side of the road @ $30.hr, down here I get to see inmates paying back society by picking up the trash on the side of the road.

      Right now my gas is $2.42/gal. No idea what it is in VT now, but I’m sure a lot more.

  3. If the kids want to a real issue in Vermont, they should drop their global warming signs and pick up ones which deal with a far more serious issue in Vermont, HIGH PROPERTY TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Tax, Tax, Tax that’s the only policy that ever comes out of Montpelier, have they ever tried
    to cut taxes, Nope !!

    So we have a state deep in debt, decayed infrastructure, drug concerns and all we see are
    new policies that are ” FeelGood ” and will cost taxpayers ?? Well, those that are left.

    Then the masterminds in the state cannot understand why Vermonters are leaving the state,
    both young & old ” Over Taxed, No Future……..Vermont is looking more like California !!

    Vote these Progressive Liberals out of Montpelier before it’s too late they don’t care about
    you, it’s all about the agenda.

  5. Wonder where one can get the 802VT Alliance tee shirts. If worn in numbers, liberals might take notice and a truce moment takes place. It’s like getting a MEGA hat.

    MEGA does not stand for Make Ecuador Great Again as one commenter replied to a posting of mine. Dumb, total ignorance.

    • Hit a wrong key, should say “true” not truce. In VT there cannot be any truce.

  6. Designed and built a house with water front, 1/4 acre. Just saw the tax bill, $524 for the year. It’s a beautiful house with cathedral ceilings. Other southern states are reasonable. Seen a commentator in TN on a TNR article state their taxes are very reasonable. TN is a lot like VT in country and people. AL is great, go there each winter.

    If selling out of VT, they’ll always be a Flatlander that will buy sooner or later, the NE is full of them. Make VT so attractive, they won’t move to a conservative state. The VT hills are crap when you learn it’s costly to see them. Keep the Liberals and ticks.

  7. The property tax is the cruelest of all taxes. The property tax, unlike an income tax, doesn’t care if you lose your job, get sick, or retire. It is relentless and is truly a detriment to the welfare of the state. How many more homes would see additions, improvements, new garages, new barns, a paved driveway, etc. if folks didn’t fear the resulting increase in their property tax? How many jobs would those property improvements create? For the elderly, the constant anxiety associated with high property taxes is particularly troubling as losing ones home late in life is almost as frightening as a diagnosis of cancer. There is absolutely no reason why states like Vermont cannot live within their means so that residents don’t have to move to states like Florida and Tennessee in order to remain fiscally secure.
    For those like Gallo who have moved to Vermont from “the flatlands”, STOP VOTING FOR THE SAME ILK AND THE SAME CRAP YOU LEFT BEHIND WHEN YOU MOVED HERE!!

    • Dave, this has been my constant drum beat. There are many that share (our) views.

      Thanks

  8. The state & towns are so hard up to confiscate any money, they won’t give a vet a break. Ask me.

  9. The only guarantee we have is Taxes will always go UP, never DOWN Until the flatlanders
    who invaded our once free VT decide their form of Leftist Demontard AGENDA driven Government
    isn’t working it won’t change. The H8ters of free enterprise that have driven big business out of
    VT for ever have assured they never return with high tax/high regulation/high 250 interrogation,
    cost and no incentive. The montpiculair ijits fix is to pay single family’s to move here where there
    is so little opportunity all the young are leaving… I didn’t think people could be so dense but boy
    was I wrong.. and you have to believe all the self proclaimed smarts peps that vote for them ain’t
    all that smart..

Comments are closed.