Tax report: Unification would save ANeSU towns money

BRISTOL — School district unification could save taxpayers in the five Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns close to $2.5 million in property taxes over five years, according to a report just released by district officials.
“We’ve heard from members of our community who are really feeling the pain of the taxes that they pay for education,” said Jennifer Stanley, chair of the ANeSU Act 46 Study Committee. “And we have a lot of comments in our survey from people who said, ‘I need you to make my taxes lower, and I need you to get this done.’ That was definitely a strong message.
“So this provides an opportunity for people who really are concerned about their taxes to see some savings over the coming years.”
The report analyzed projected tax savings for fiscal years 2019 through 2023 should ANeSU voters approve the study committee’s plan for unification in this November’s elections. The plan would unify governance of the elementary schools and high school in the five-town area, as well as put them all under one budget.
If ANeSU residents vote yes on Nov. 8,  the district’s timeline would then be that the first global budget encompassing all schools in the new Addison Northeast Supervisory District would take effect for fiscal year 2019 (which begins July 1, 2018). Taxpayers would then see a reduction in their school tax rate of 8 cents in FY 2019, 6 cents in FY 2020, 4 cents in FY 2021 and 2 cents in FY 2022.
According to the terms of Act 46, voters must approve unification by July 1, 2017, and have the new district operational by July 1, 2019 to receive the state’s tax-reduction incentives.
More than a dozen Vermont supervisory unions — including the three other districts in Addison County — approved such unification plans earlier this year.
Stanley explained that once unified in the new district, all towns in the Bristol area would vote on a unified budget and would be given the same state-derived tax rates (including the four years of tax-reduction incentives). She then further explained that each town’s education tax rate would ultimately factor in that town’s common level of appraisal (CLA), so the final education tax rates would vary town to town within the new district, according to each town’s CLA numbers.
The CLA is a formula applied to property taxes to ensure that all property statewide is assessed at fair market value.
Stanley also noted that the report shows that there continue to be property-tax savings in FY 2023, the first year in which there would no longer be tax-reduction incentives from state.
“People wanted to see what happened after you stop having that tax-rate reduction from the state,” said Stanley. “And the report does show that our taxes are still lower after we lose that tax incentive. There’s still savings in that fiscal 23, even though we no longer have a kind of artificial reduction from the state in our tax rate.”
The study compared tax rates for each of the five towns for FY2019-2023, with and without unification. It projected tax savings for homes in Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro, looking separately at homes valued at $100,000; $150,000; 200,000; $250,000; and $300,000. And it tallied property tax savings for each town over the five years.
Total property-tax savings for individual towns from FY2019-FY2023, according to the report, are projected at:
Bristol          $672,995
Lincoln         $573,901
Monkton       $422,335
New Haven    $592,326
Starksboro     $197,183
Comparing property tax rates for each town, with and without unification, the district’s analysis shows that unification results in lower property tax rates, including in fiscal year 2023, in which the state tax-reduction incentives no longer apply. It shows that unification would result in a reduction in property tax rates that ranges:
•  In Bristol from 10 cents in FY2019 to 5 cents in FY2023.
•  In Lincoln from 12 cents in FY2019 to 7 cents in FY2023.
•  In Monkton from 11 cents in FY2019 to 2 cents in FY2023.
•  In New Haven from 34 cents in FY2019 to 28 cents in FY2023.
•  In Starksboro from 22 cents in FY2019 to 14 cents in 2023.
Looking at property taxes on a $200,000 home, from FY2019 through FY2023:
•  A Bristol homeowner could expect to save between $93 and $190 a year in education taxes, for a total savings of $701.
•  A Lincoln homeowner could expect to save between $153 and $255 a year in education taxes, for a total savings of $1,014.
•  A Monkton homeowner could expect to save between $27 and $199 a year in education taxes, for a total savings of $564.
•  A New Haven homeowner could expect to save between $108 and $198 a year in education taxes, for a total savings of $772.
•  A Starksboro homeowner could expect to save between $129 and $9 a year in education taxes, for a total savings of $341.
Total projected tax savings for all homeowners, in all five towns districtwide, over the five years is $2,458,740.
“There’s many benefits for our students and for our communities in unifying, including being able to have different programs or just support programs more consistently across our different schools and to give us more flexibility and efficiency in how we’re operating” said Stanley.
She noted that the tax-impact report shows that unification also provides “an opportunity for tax savings over the five years that we’re predicting, the first five years of the unification. That tax savings is important for many of our taxpayers and so it’s one of the many things that’s a benefit in unifying.”
The tax-impact report will be available on the ANeSU website after Friday, Aug. 5, as part of an updated draft of the Act 46 Study Committee Final Report.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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