My husband, Robert, and I visited Vermont for years when our children were growing up and we decided in 2003 that we would like to make Vermont our home. We sold our vacation home in the Town of Stratton, bought land and physically built our permanent home also in Stratton.
We were connected to the state prior to the enactment of Act 60 and Act 68 and I understand that these laws were passed to make education available to all students throughout the state. However, I believe the calculation under Act 68 has gone awry. The calculation has become unfair. The Town of Stratton resident tax rate for 2012 was $1.5189 and for 2013 it is $1.7663. That increase from 2012 to 2013 is 16.2881 percent. In an economy were the average inflation rate for 2012 was only 2.1 percent, an almost 16.3 percent increase to Stratton’s education tax is unreasonable.
Stratton’s student population increased by 4 students from 32 to 36, the Common Level of Appraisal denominator decreased from just about 99 percent to about 94 percent and the State tax education rate went up by 1 percent, a perfect storm if you will, resulted in the Stratton residential rate increase of 16.3 percent. I understand this is how the tax is calculated, it is mechanical, but at some point a REASONABLE TEST must be used. I doubt very much if Stratton would ever have a 16.3 percent rate decrease. The Town of Stratton’s residential tax rate increased almost eight times the annual inflation rate.
I know Stratton is viewed as a "gold or resort town," but most of its residents have limited funds. Stratton has little control over the cost of educating its students, since we do not have any schools and need to pay tuition to neighboring communities for our students. The town of Stratton has a tax bill of just over $12 million and we keep about $637.5 thousand for the education of its students. We pay tuition set by others.
Even though the number of students continues to drop by an average of more than 750 students a year over the last two years state-wide, our tax burden in Stratton has risen to a point of lunacy. Equal education in the state is not a bad concept, but what about equal taxes especially for residents without any control? Perhaps it is time to revisit the tax structure. Act 68 may "work" in most places in the state, but it is not working in Stratton: it is punishing the citizens in this community.
ELLEN S. GIUNTA