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Milne Calls For Freeze On Statewide Property Tax Rate

Angela Evancie
VPR File Photo
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne is calling for a freeze on statewide property tax rates.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Milne says that as he campaigns around the state, there is no question that the rising burden of property taxes is one of the biggest issues facing Vermonters. That's why he's calling for a two year freeze on the statewide property tax rate for education.

Milne says the freeze could be tough on some local school boards but he says it will ultimately force lawmakers to consider a new and simplified approach to paying for education.

"This would put pressure on the Legislature and the governor, optimally Scott Milne, to fix this problem." - GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne supporting a two year freeze on the statewide property tax rate

Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable decline in Vermont’s student population in many communities. The trend has resulted in an increase in local per student spending costs, and this factor has a direct impact on the statewide property tax rate for education.

In the last two years, the statewide tax rate has increased roughly ten percent and it’s expected to rise another 5 percent next year.

Milne says the current system is far too complicated and needs to be replaced. He says the  first step is to freeze the statewide tax rate for the next two years.

“It’s an idea that came from municipal leaders that we’ve talked to across Vermont. The Governor’s tax commissioner has to come out in November of this year and suggest to towns and school boards what the statewide property tax increase is going to be for the next year,” said Milne. “We’re suggesting that should be zero.”

Milne acknowledges that the two year freeze could cause some short term budgetary problems at the local level but he says this kind of pressure is what’s needed to push lawmakers to enact meaningful change at the Statehouse.

“This would put pressure on the Legislature and the governor, optimally Scott Milne, to fix this problem,” said Milne. “So that it’s a simple program, a predictable program and we’re not dealing with double digit rate increases.”

Milne says he will release the details of his tax plan at a later time and that it will likely also include a provision to implement either a regional or statewide teachers' contract.

Scott Coriell is Governor Shumlin’s campaign manager. He says freezing the statewide property tax merely transfers more of the financial burden onto local property taxpayers unless schools cut their budgets.

Coriell says Milne’s plan “does nothing to address the underlying causes of  property tax pressures and would create chaos for Vermont’s education system. It’s a terrible idea that should alarm Vermont voters.”

Coriell says the Governor agrees that changes need to be made to the current education funding system and Shumlin expects that legislative leaders will have a number of plans to consider in January.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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