Roper: Massive property tax increase on the horizon

By Rob Roper

The Vermont Tax Commissioner published his forecast, as required by law, on December 1 regarding property tax rates for FY22. It’s not a pretty picture: an expected average 9.5% increase in Vermont homeowners’ property tax bills and a 10% increase for non-homestead properties. These increases will fund an estimated 3.79% overall increase in spending.

The reasons for the sharp increase are mostly Covid related: loss of sales and use, purchase and use, and rooms and meals tax revenues, all of which contribute in whole or in part to the Education Fund. When these revenue sources come up short, it falls on property taxpayers to make up the difference.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Officials are quick to remind taxpayers that a similar forecast for FY2021 didn’t pan out, and the property tax rate increases actually implemented were modest. They hope for a similar result by the time they have to vote on the new rates next spring. However, the FY2021 rates were the result of pulling out all the stops with accounting gimmicks, utilizing federal relief funds where possible, and dipping into reserve funds. Barring a significant shift in federal relief fund policy funded by national debt (possible with a new administration), those options will not be available again.

While these increases are extreme due to the pandemic, they are part of a long-term trend of unsustainably high property taxes, growing every year, to fund ever higher school spending that serves fewer and fewer students. A federal bailout, should one occur, will not fix this dynamic for the long term, only enable it in the short term.

With or without out a federal bailout, Vermonters need to ask if it makes sense to pour more and more money into a clearly broken system. Many have observed that the pandemic “highlighted inequities” in the system, which even before the pandemic has a long record of failing low income and special needs students. While there are stories about children of Covid refugees filling or flooding the ranks of some Vermont schools, these numbers don’t come close to matching the over 2,000 students who have left the Vermont public system in favor of homeschooling in the past year — a 100% increase in homeschooling.

Just as Covid accelerated trends in business for telecommuting and created new models for delivering services, many of which will outlast the pandemic because they deliver higher quality experiences at lower cost to both the business and consumer, how we educate our children should similarly evolve.

The key to succeeding in such a remodeling is to ensure that parents of low income and special needs students can access and control resources in ways their wealthier peers can through expanded school choice, education savings accounts, and allowing for the expansion of a variety of entrepreneurial education models designed to fit the needs of individual students.

Teachers unions will no doubt fight such innovation tooth and nail. Vermonters need to ask if the system is for these adults or the kids.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/

10 thoughts on “Roper: Massive property tax increase on the horizon

  1. Our schooling monolith – costs, buildings, towns & state roles, taxes, unions — seems to produce more and more evidence that, though nobly conceived, it’s a failed enterprise. Is it time to re-think the whole thing? The objective is to serve the education of kids. Parents are responsible for educating their kids. I find few parents pleased with Public Schools as a vender for helping them in their efforts. If the community is agreed that it wants to continue having the state involved couldn’t the collected moneys simply go back to the kids involved? The parents can decide how/if they’ll do business with schools.

  2. Here we go again. The VT Tax Commissioner, on behalf of the Agency of Education, throws out a 10% projected increase in education property taxes, and everyone gets bent out of shape (yet again). Then, mark my words, we’ll hear from the AOE that they ‘cut’ their costs by 50% – aren’t they the responsible ones – and when the increase is implemented, it ‘only’ increases 5% – at least for those of you who can do the math.

    Meanwhile everything that’s wrong with the public school monopoly continues to be wrong. Abhorrent student performance (even worse now because of school closures) and outrageous costs. Never mind the propaganda the monopoly foists on our children without parental input.

    One has to ask, finally, why private, and parochial schools can stay open for two thirds the cost – and their students actually learn something.

    Oh, that’s right. I forgot. The AOE represents ‘public’ schools, and it’s always ‘for the children’ – especially when they interrogate the kids to find out what’s going on at home. After all, whatever is going on at home can’t be as good as what goes on in the public school monopoly.

      • The head lines in the papers will read….Vermont school budgets cut 50% to keep property taxes in line! Everyone will waive their victory flags and make sweeping statements of victory and financial prudence and cost cutting.


        The next year you get your tax bill and low and behold.

        It’s higher than last year!

        We’ll be duped again.

        • I have no more words anymore Neil.
          I feel like I’m watching a slow motion heist take place.

          It’s going to take a real actual rising up of the people, because you’ll be lucky to take back the state even doing that.
          Look at Europe!

          • Laura – it is a show and the good guys are running it so have faith because the Best IS yet to come ;-))

            Heists no more – ride the wave!!

  3. They need to STOP spending other peoples money, NOT tax us more.
    What planet do they live on???
    No wonder so many are getting out of Vermont…..

    • By this time next year we’ll be residents of some other State. We may pay a bit higher taxes on our home, but VT will not get one cent from taxes on our income.

      • SMART move! My family did it 4 years ago and it’s been nothing but a boom for our wallets! So much more disposable income without the state of VT in my wallet at every turn.

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