Some tax rates rise in spite of cuts

CORNWALL — Leaders of the seven towns that make up the Addison Central Supervisory Union have set new 2011-2012 property tax rates that range from a 4.5-cent decrease in Middlebury to a 12-cent increase in Bridport.
The new property tax rates reflect new spending levels that residents approved in March for municipal and school services during the coming year. But officials in some towns learned that external forces — such as declining enrollment and the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) provision of the state’s education funding law — have conspired to drive up tax rates in spite of budgeted spending decreases.
Cornwall
Those external forces are particularly in play in Cornwall.
The Cornwall selectboard recently set a new homestead property tax rate of $1.8446 per $100 in property value, up just less than 10 cents, compared to the previous rate of $1.746. The new non-residential rate has been set at $1.74, up around 6 cents from last year’s rate of $1.68.
The rate increases comes in spite of the fact that Cornwall school directors decreased the Bingham Memorial elementary school spending plan by 2.22 percent and the selectboard lowered the municipal rate by a penny, from 34 cents to 35 cents.
Bill Talbott, chief financial officer for the Vermont Department of Education, linked the tax rate increase in Cornwall to two factors. First, the per-pupil count at Cornwall elementary is projected to drop by seven students in the 2011-2012 academic year, to 79 from 86 last year. That means less state aid for education.
Second, Cornwall’s CLA dropped from 100.74 percent last year to 96.44 percent this year. The common level of appraisal is an equalization ratio used to adjust the assessed value of property within a municipality to its estimated fair market value. Each municipality’s CLA is used to calculate its actual homestead and non-residential education property tax rates.
Cornwall’s home values have traditionally held strong, even during recessionary times. That’s not the case in many other Vermont towns that have seen their real estate prices soften, and in some cases decline, amid the sluggish economy. When real estate prices decline in a community, that forces the CLA to go up, which in turn slows the rise in property tax rates, Talbott noted.
“The CLA effect has changed since the real estate bubble,” Talbott said. “CLAs are not changing as much.”
Shoreham
Town officials recently set Shoreham’s 2011 homestead tax rate at $2.0986 per $100 in property value, up roughly seven cents compared to the 2010 rate of $2.0292.
The new non-residential rate of $1.955 is up a little more than 5 cents compared to the 2010 level of $1.9022.
The tax rate increase is related to school expenses, even though the 2011-2012 Shoreham Elementary budget of $1,383,532 represents a 3.7-percent decrease compared to the prior year’s spending plan.
Shoreham’s municipal property tax rate for 2011 was set at 45.6 cents per $100 in property value, a slight decrease from the 46 cents assessed in 2010.
Weybridge
The Weybridge selectboard recently set a 2011 homestead property tax rate of $2.122 per $100 in property value, representing a 2-cent decrease compared to the 2010 rate of $2.149. The 2011 non-residential property tax rate also declined by around 2 cents, to $1.937 from the $1.9548 rate assessed in 2010.
Officials set a 2011 municipal property tax rate of 41.5 cents, up from the 40 cents assessed in 2010.
Bridport
In Bridport, the selectboard set a 2011 homestead property tax rate of $1.9735 per $100 in property value, up more than 12 cents compared to the 2010 rate of $1.8487.
The increase comes in spite of a 2011-2012 Bridport Central School spending plan that is 0.12-percent less than the $1,330,817 approved last year.
Non-residential property owners in Bridport  will see a 2011 rate of $1.8148, up around 6 cents compared to 2010.
The 2011 municipal property tax in Bridport is up 2 cents, from 45 cents in 2010 to 47 cents.
Salisbury
Salisbury officials have set a new homestead property tax rate of $1.8342 per $100 in property value, up a little less than 5 cents compared to the previous rate of $1.7864.
The non-residential rate is up around 3.5 cents compared to last year, while the town’s municipal rate is down around a penny, from 26.9 cents per $100 to 25.8 cents.
The 2011-2012 Salisbury Community School budget approved by voters this past March was down 1 percent compared to the prior year.
Ripton
Ripton recently concluded a townwide reappraisal of properties for the first time since 2004. The community’s CLA had dipped to 77.44 percent. The fallout from the new reappraisal is that most property values in town spiked by an average of around 18 percent, according to Ripton Town Clerk Sally Hoyler, while the local property tax rates took a corresponding dip.
The 2011 homestead property tax rate in Ripton is $2.01 per $100 in property value, down from last year’s rate of $2.43. The non-residential rate has been set at $1.87 per $100, down from last year’s rate of $2.23. And Ripton’s new municipal property tax rate has been set at almost 38 cents per $100, down from 59 cents last year.
Middlebury
As previously reported, the Middlebury selectboard in July set a 2011-2012 residential property tax rate of $2.5223 per $100 in property value, representing a 4-cent decrease compared to the tax year that ended June 30.
Middlebury’s nonresidential property tax rate is $2.4449 per $100 in property value, representing a 1.3-cent decrease compared to last year’s rate of $2.4587.
Officials attributed the decrease in large part to schools holding the line on expenses.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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