Larger ANwSU towns set tax rates; schools driving rate hikes

VERGENNES — The Department of Education’s release late last week of final homestead education tax rates allowed Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns to begin setting their overall tax rates, which in Addison, Ferrisburgh and Vergennes have increased by a range of 3.2 percent in Addison to 6.2 percent in Ferrisburgh.
Underlying those increases are residential school tax hikes that were in a range between 6.4 percent in Ferrisburgh and 7.1 percent in Vergennes.
Most of the money collected by each of the towns’ tax bills goes toward supporting the three ANwSU elementary schools and Vergennes Union High School.
Selectboards in Panton and Waltham will set their final rates at meetings in early August, according to officials in those towns.
Non-residential rates in Addison, Ferrisburgh and Vergennes did not see the same level of increases. In fact, Addison’s non-residential rate decreased by two-thirds of a penny. Those rates in Ferrisburgh and Vergennes rose by 2.5 and 1.8 percent, respectively.
Residential school tax rates in those three towns, which all set tax rates in the past few days, rose by between 7.57 cents in Ferrisburgh and 9.48 cents in Addison.
Taken alone, those increases translate to between about $151 and $190 of additional taxes on a $200,000 home.
However, those calculations assume the homeowners do not qualify for income sensitivity provisions of Vermont’s education financing law.
According to state data, in 2014 there were 6,918 Addison County residents who received adjustments to their property tax bills; the adjustments averaged $1,556. Typically, about two-thirds of homeowners in most towns pay based on their incomes, not on their homes’ values.
Municipal taxes are not eligible for most income sensitivity provisions; however, most residents who make a little less than $50,000 can have their total property tax bill capped at 5 percent of their income.
Despite the increase in Addison’s homestead education rate, the town’s overall rate increase was modest because of a drop of about 3.6 cents in the municipal portion of Addison’s tax rate. Town Clerk Marilla Webb said there was a major one-time expense in the previous town budget.
The town’s overall residential rate includes the new homestead school tax rate of $1.5259 plus the municipal rate of $0.3892, which in turn includes a $0.0011 local rate to recapture school tax money lost to Addison’s veterans’ exemption.
Those rates compare to $0.4249 for the municipal rate and $1.4311 for the homestead rate from the past year. The school tax rate rose by 9.48 cents, or 6.6 percent.
The overall residential tax rate increase is 3.2 percent.
Addison’s total new non-residential rate is $1.7835, which includes the new municipal rate plus the town’s new non-residential school rate of $1.3943.
The previous non-residential rate totaled $1.7901; the lower new municipal rate is offsetting the increase in the non-residential school rate from $1.3652.
Webb said when the selectboard set the rates on July 17, the board also agreed to extend the deadline on which the town offers a discount to property taxpayers on the municipal portion of their tax bill.
That date is usually Aug. 1, but the selectboard moved the date to Aug. 11 because of the delay Addison and other towns experienced in getting tax rates from the state, a delay due to the multiple VUHS budget votes.
Taxpayers will receive a 2 percent discount on their bill’s municipal portion if they pay in full or in part before Aug. 11, Webb said. The full payment is due by Nov. 1.
Ferrisburgh’s total new residential rate, set by the selectboard on Tuesday night, came in at exactly $1.90.
That rate represents a 6.2 percent increase of 11.07 cents from the 2014-2015 tax rate.
The rate includes a rate of $0.2673 to support municipal spending, plus $1.6327 to support school spending.
Those rates both rose from the previous year. The municipal portion of the rate is higher by 3.37 cents, or 14.4 percent, in part due to funding the new town garage.
The homestead school rate is higher by 7.57 cents, or about 6.4 percent.
Ferrisburgh’s total new non-residential rate is $1.4946, an increase of 2.5 percent that includes 3.37 cents on the municipal side and about a penny on the school side.
 Bills will go out by the end of the month, with the first installment due by Sept. 1.
The Vergennes City Council set the city’s local tax rate at 75 cents back in late June. To that, city officials added a local rate of $0.0034 to account for lost school tax revenue to voter-approved exemptions for veterans and the Masons’ building on School Street, bumping the total city municipal rate to 75.34 cents.
They also added $1.5084, the new Vergennes homestead education tax rate, for a total 2015-2016 residential tax rate of $2.2618.
That figure represents an overall increase of 5.5 percent, or 11.83 cents, that includes a 7.1 percent hike in the school tax rate.
The 2014-2015 rates were 72.30 cents for the city portion and $1.4155 for the school portion.
The non-residential rate saw less change.
The 2015-2016 non-residential school tax rate for Vergennes is $1.4699, up by 1.44 cents from the past fiscal year.
Combined with the new municipal rate, the total new non-residential rate is $2.2233, a 1.8 percent increase from $2.1835.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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