State Headliners: Vermont publishes 2020 school tax rates for every town

By Guy Page

The Joint Fiscal Office of the Vermont Legislature Aug. 13 published a list of the 2020 school tax rates for every town.

The listing shows both “equalized” and non-equalized homeowner and non-homeowner school tax rate in every town. It does not compare the 2020 school tax rate with the 2019 rate, nor does it list the municipal (non-school) tax rate.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

In other words, the document doesn’t tell you everything about next year’s tax bill, but it still tells you plenty. For example, you might think that the highest tax rates were in Chittenden County, with its wealthy residents demanding deluxe schools. After all, it is the accepted premise, among many Vermont legislators (including some from Vermont’s wealthiest county), that the wealthy should help the less fortunate by paying higher tax rates.

But that turns out not to be the case. The highest Chittenden County tax rate is Burlington’s 1.50%. The rest of the towns and cities are a few percentage points below. (Not that Chittenden County doesn’t also have substantial school tax bills. Tax rate is just one component of the bill, the other is assessed value. Chittenden County has some of the most expensive housing in Vermont.)

The three towns with the highest tax rates in Vermont all begin with “W” and none of them are Chittenden’s Winooski, Williston or Westford. In fact, they are about as far from Chittenden County as you can get and still be in Vermont. They are all located in Windham County, as if that economically depressed, drug-plagued county didn’t have enough problems: Windham (2.25% “equalized education rate” of assessed value of property) is #1. According to Sperling’s the median price of a house in Windham is $216,000. Therefore the median 2020 school tax rate in Windham (unadjusted for any reductions) would be $5,400 (2.25% x $216,000).

Wilmington and Whitingham are tied for second with 2.03%. Windham County towns of Newfane and Townshend also made the top 22 towns with the highest school tax rates.

As it happens, none of the top 22 tax-rate towns are located in Chittenden County. At least three are affluent Dartmouth University bedroom towns (Thetford, Norwich, West Fairlee) in Windsor County, where more homeowners can both afford high taxes and are predisposed to support spending on education. But #4 on the list is the Northeast Kingdom town of Victory (1.94) – known less for prosperity and more for bitter infighting in local government. Five merged Washington County towns (Berlin, East Montpelier, Calais, Middlesex, Worcester) also made the list.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

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10 thoughts on “State Headliners: Vermont publishes 2020 school tax rates for every town

  1. This report is an example of what it’s like getting into ‘the weeds’ of public school finance. It’s complicated for a reason – to prevent the average person from understanding it.

    First of all, the term ‘Equalized’ in this report reflects the effect of the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) on a town’s grand list. Some town grand lists, for example, are under-valued when compared to actual Fair Market Values (FMV) based on recent sales data. Some towns are over-valued. This report ‘equalizes’ the rate according to actual FMV.

    But there’s another use of the term ‘equalized’. It is the ‘Equalized Pupil Count’. The Agency of Education uses artificially inflated enrollments of “about 88,000” K-12 Vermont students to calculate the cost per student as it appears in your school district’s budget article to be approved by voters. In reality, there are only about 75,000 actual beating hearts in our schools.

    Furthermore, the revenues covered by this listing of State property tax rates do not cover all school district costs. They only cover the State’s contribution. Each property tax bill has a ‘Local Agreement’ tax rate that has to be added to the State’s Homestead or Non-Homestead tax rate listed in this report.

    For example, in Westminster, Athens and Grafton, three of the districts awaiting a tax rate because of their litigation with the State, the State required the warned article for budget approval to list “…education spending of $18,475.08 per equalized pupil”. In reality, the education budget approved by voters was $6.960 Million for 315 actual students with beating hearts. In reality, that’s $22,094 per student.

    • Post Script:

      Castleton State – A Vermont University, 2019-20 returning in-state yearly costs including tuition, student association fee, student resources fee, and room and board. $23,490

      Again, the annual cost includes $14,970 for room and board!

      Now compare that to paying $22 thousand each year to educate students for 13 years – half of whom graduate without meeting grade level standards.

  2. Windsor County residents can “afford” higher taxes??? Last time I looked “afford” was “wealth distrabution”. As the man once said, ” if it quacks like duck and looks like a duck, IT’S A DUCK.” Time for the folks to level with us.

  3. Great report, what the housing expense does reflect is the ability to get a high paying job for the populace.

    It’s an insane amount of taxes being paid.

    Add to that to them.the income equalization, and of course you won’t have 33% of the population acing about the tax rate,,,,,,,,,,they don’t pay it and they aren’t affected. So of course I’m going to vote for that new school, the luxury tax, to have my school completely rebuilt, it’s FREE MONEY

    The love of spending other people’s money is pretty strong in these parts. It’s the root of all our evil too.

    • I often tell people,if you’re poor,move to Vermont.If you’ve got a couple bucks forget it.

  4. When Vermont centralized its education property tax system, the narrative was “equity” and “it shouldn’t matter where you live, kids should have the same opportunities.” The reality was this, make things as complicated as you possibly can, do everything to centralize and further the big public education monopoly agenda. This was done with full knowledge that it would harm children and working Vermonters. When the left was selling this program, they told residents of the kingdom that rich Chittenden county “gold towns” would be paying more and our taxes would be going down. Lies.

    • Same with Act 60, same with this new law, act 46, where they talk about cost per student to sell you a false bill. So, to the taxpayer, within the normal parameters, It doesn’t matter if the teacher is teaching one kid or twenty kids, the cost to the town or taxpayer is the same, pretty much, extra books and pencils.

      But the fixed costs are the same, teacher salary, heat for the room, money for the school room. We are experiencing first hand one of the largest con job in our state, pushed onto the Vermont public via lobbyists for certain groups. And because we have no investigative reporters, only propaganda machines for the lobbyists and DNC, Vermonters never hear the truth.

      We have key senators who share a life we one of the largest “news organizations” in the state, they do publish disclosure at the very end of the article, but 7 days could not be a better foot soldier for the majority in power or the dnc.

  5. Great report, it just goes to show it doesn’t matter where in Vermont you live you’re getting
    porked with inflated school Tax…….. why ??

    So class sizes are ” down”, student scores are ” down” but teachers salaries are up along with
    a great medical plan ……………….NEA and a Ponzi scheme, it’s for the Kids !!

    You work for your home, they’ll make sure pay for there inept results……. Greed & No Shame.

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