Letter to the editor: Don’t use income tax to finance education

I am writing to express concern regarding the state legislature’s potential plan to fund schools via an income tax as a way to reduce property taxes. Let me state up front that simplifying the tax code and reducing our taxes are both commendable ideas that most people can easily support. However, given already precarious school budgets (most of our area schools are facing significant cuts to programs, personnel, or both), this plan could easily lead to further financial challenges in our schools.
A full 15 percent of homes in Vermont are second homes. The property taxes from those homes help to support our state education system, but second homeowners do not pay income taxes in Vermont unless Vermont is their permanent residence. While not all second home owners are affluent, it stands to reason that families choosing to own a vacation home in beautiful Vermont as an escape from the monotony of Massachusetts or the confines of Connecticut can afford the annual tax bills on those homes. Reducing that stream of tax revenue without a way to replace it will naturally lead to requiring Vermonters to pay a significant income tax in order to make up for those funds. Or, worse, the net loss of those funds could mean additional losses to our schools.
Vermont’s current property tax system already has measures in place to subsidize tax bills for lower-income families. If we feel that lower-income Vermonters require additional help in paying their property taxes, then adjusting the current system makes more sense than giving a tax break to a number of property owners who do not necessarily need that break.
Vermont’s schools have challenges that we all must face in the coming years, but we absolutely cannot afford to risk the quality of our public schools any more than current financial constraints are causing us to risk.
Asking Vermonters to subsidize a property tax cut for out-of-state owners of ski homes on the backs of our kids’ schools would be a mistake. I hope to read in future Addy Indy articles that the proposed new tax system will not result in any net-loss to our education funding and that the income tax burden on families will not outweigh any possible property tax savings we could see.
Sam Prouty

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