Letter to the editor: Don’t shortchange teachers to pay off the wealthy

I don’t know anyone who likes to pay taxes. Most of us would like to see our taxes reduced.
At the same time, Vermonters have long wanted and consistently voted for the best schools for their kids. By our State Constitution this means equal education for all Vermont students. We don’t have a few great schools with many cheap but poor-quality schools like many states.
Vermont has achieved the goal of providing one of the very best educations for all our students. This is a core asset for our kids that we do not want to compromise.
Yes, it is relatively expensive. Yes, it can be improved both in quality and cost. Act 46 and its predecessors are incrementally achieving this. They are doing this at the local level where the unique problems of our many tiny communities and schools are better understood. I hope the teachers; school boards and legislators continue to work hard to improve both quality and cost while addressing our diminishing student population. I’m sure they will!
It is notable that the Governor’s top down proposal does not address quality at all! That seems not important to him. He does not differentiate between our tiny communities and our largest school districts. This too, seems unimportant to him. Only Cost. Arbitrary head count quotas. No New Taxes. Nice campaign slogan.
I’ve tried to find out who would benefit by less property taxes. To do this I’ve relied on the data provided by “The Vermont Tax study 2005-2017” produced by the Joint Fiscal Office in January of 2017.
What I’ve found is that 85 percent of the total net Property Tax is paid by people 44 and older — 64 percent by those 55 and older. Sort of what you would expect if one thought about it.
Now if we look at their share of the Federal Adjusted Gross Income we find that those 45 and older make 74.7 percent of Vermont Income — 50.1 percent by those 55 and older.
It is clear that cutting the property (Education) tax is heavily biased toward benefitting the older and wealthier Vermonters. These same Voters are often called the Republican base.
Most of these people do not have children in our schools at this time, nor are likely to be in touch with the challenges and educational needs in our complex changing times.
Yes, we do need to encourage our teachers and school boards to make our kids’ education both better and less costly. But, do we really want to follow Scott’s arbitrary top down lead and compromise our kid’s education to make this segment of Vermonters better off?
Bob Zeliff

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