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Vergennes school tax rate level; overall levy up by 1 percent

VERGENNES — After all the dust settled in Montpelier in late June, Vergennes residential taxpayers will not see an increase in the school portion of their property taxes.
The city’s new 2018-2019 homestead property tax rate, according to city hall employees on Tuesday, is $1.6187, a half-cent lower than the 2017-2018 rate of $1.6237.
According to a Vermont School Board Association summary forwarded to the Independent by Addison Northwest School District business manager Elizabeth Atkins, the budget deal reached by the Legislature and Gov. Scott late in June used $20.4 million of general fund surplus revenue to “buy down the residential tax rate next year.”
That infusion of cash allowed lawmakers to use formulas that “will keep the average statewide residential tax rate flat for fiscal year 2019.”
ANWSD would have seen an increase due to declining enrollment and a corresponding drop in state per-pupil revenue, but the district is also in the second year of its tax breaks awarded by the state for approving unification. Therefore, its district-wide tax rate is 8 cents lower than otherwise would have been required to support its four schools and administrative costs.
The news about lower school taxes comes on the heels of the Vergennes City Council’s late-June decision to set the municipal tax rate at 83.5 cents, a 2.5-cent increase over the past fiscal year.
Officials said on Tuesday they had yet to calculate what they would have to add to taxpayers’ bills to fund the disabled veterans’ tax break voters approved a number of years ago. Typically that exemption adds a half-cent or less to the overall rate, one that stands at $2.4537 for $100 of property valuation before the veterans’ tax break is calculated.
Therefore it appears that Vergennes residential property taxpayers are looking at an increase of at most 2.5 cents, or $25 per $100,000 of assessed value of their homes.
That would translate to about a 1 percent increase.
Non-residential taxpayers are looking at paying more, however. The Montpelier budget deal that leveled the residential rate also increased the statewide non-residential property tax rate by 4.5 cents to $1.58.
The Vergennes non-residential rate rose by less, 2.41 cents, to $1.5518. The lower number is due to the city’s state-calculated Common Level of Appraisal (CLA), which measures how the city’s property assessments compare overall to fair market value.
According to the state, the Vergennes CLA is 101.82, essentially meaning that the city over-values its property by about 1.8 percent. Therefore, the state lowers its school-tax rates by a similar amount. If a municipality’s CLA is too low the state raises the rates. In both cases this calculation is made in an effort to collect tax money fairly from all communities regardless of the accuracy of their assessments. 
For the owners of commercial and rental property in Vergennes, the bottom line is that the combined increases in the state non-residential and the municipal rates could translate to an additional $54 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed value.

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