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Middlebury tax rate rises slightly

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on July 10 approved a new residential property tax rate of $2.8414 per $100 in assessed value, representing  a 3.5-cent (1.27 percent) increase compared to the previous rate of $2.8059.
News is not as good for the owners of non-residential property in the community, however.
The board also approved a non-residential property tax rate of $2.8481, which amounts to a 10.7-cent (3.9 percent) increase compared to the current rate of $2.74.
Middlebury officials were able to set the new rates thanks to the Vermont Department of Taxes’ recent release of residential and non-residential education property tax rates for communities throughout the state. The selectboard in late June OK’d a new FY19 municipal property tax rate of 98.36 cents, representing a bump of four-tenths of a penny over the past fiscal year.
The residential rate includes a homestead education property tax of $1.8578, a 3.4-cent increase compared to the previous rate of $1.8237.
The non-residential education property tax comes in at 1.8645, a 10.58-cent (6 percent) boost over the prior rate of $1.7587.
Education property tax rates in Vermont are not only shaped by budgets increases and decreases, they are also influenced by the common level of appraisal (CLA), and in Middlebury’s case its CLA is pushing school tax rates higher.
The CLA is an indicator of the level at which properties in a town are appraised in relation to the actual fair market value. The CLA is used to equalize education taxes statewide, with the goal of having properties of equal value pay equal amounts of school taxes.
Each year the Vermont Department of Taxes determines towns’ CLAs by studying property sales to determine how close town’s assessed values are to fair market values. If the study finds that a town’s properties, on average, sell for less than the assessed amounts, the CLA will be greater than 100 percent. If properties in a town sell for more than the assessed values, the CLA will be less than 100 percent.
In Middlebury, where assessments are outdated and a town-wide valuation is ongoing, the CLA as of December 2017 stood at 84.74 percent, and school tax rates were adjusted upward by more than 15 percent.
Therefore the comparatively small overall increase of 3.5 cents in Middlebury’s new residential rate is due to tight budgeting by town and school officials last fall.
Addison Central School District voters in March approved a K-12 education budget of $36,762,479 for the 2018-2019 academic year, reflecting a 1.32-percent spending decrease and the elimination of more than 20 full-time-equivalent jobs throughout the seven-town district. 
This is the second consecutive year that the rise in Middlebury’s residential property tax rate is being kept at less than 4 cents. The fiscal year 2018 rate featured a 2-cent bump.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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