Rising enrollment drives taxes down in North Bennington

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Last week the North Bennington Prudential Committee warned its FY19 budget, which is expected to lead for lower property tax rates within the district.

In total the budget for the district, which does not operate a school but pays tuition to send its students to other schools, such as the Village School of North Bennington, the Southshire Community School, Hiland Hall School, and Shaftsbury Elementary School, is up 5.48 percent, to a total of $2,710,818. However, the district also saw a greater than six percent increase in its equalized pupil count, which drove per pupil spending, which is used by the state to calculate property tax rate, down.

When that is taken into account, residents of North Bennington should see a 2.3 cent decrease per $100 in appraised property value. For residents of Shaftsbury District 1, that decrease would be 5.04 cents. These numbers could change if the legislature adopts a property yield adjustment other than that which the tax commissioner has recommended. For a resident with a home valued at $200,000, those rates would equate to about $46 in savings in North Bennington and $100.80 in savings in Shaftsbury District 1. This is in addition to any increases or decreases in the municipal property tax rate.

The district is warning a tuition rate for the Village School that is 1.1 percent higher than in FY18 at $14,900 per pupil.

Prudential Committee Chairman Ray Mullineaux said that committee believes that the budget is in line with Governor Phil Scott's request that schools seek to level-fund their budgets this year. He said that 75 percent of the increase is associated with tuition costs, due to the increased cost of educating the village's students. He said that the district believes that this trend of student population growth will continue.

The committee also increased the building reserve fund with several projects on the horizon, including repaving and a re-model of the third floor boy's bathroom at the Village School, as well as a more long-term re-roofing project.

North Bennington is the last of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union districts to finalize and warn its budget. Those budgets will be voted on by Australian ballot on Tuesday March 5. In North Bennington, voting will take place at the village offices at the Village Train Station from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The annual floor meeting will take place on Saturday March 3 at 9 a.m.

Elsewhere in the SVSU, Bennington is looking at a 1.3 cent increase, Pownal is up 1.55 cents, Shaftsbury is up less than a cent, and Woodford is up 10.16 cents, making North Bennington the only district looking at a tax rate decrease, thanks to its increase in enrollment. This comes in a year when the Scott Administration warned that it would take a 9 cent statewide increase to maintain spending levels from the current fiscal year, due to $50 million in one-time spending that was used to lower tax rates in 2017.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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