Educational funding suit scheduled for 2020 trial

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NEWFANE — Attorneys for Vermont and those in Whitingham alleging the state's property taxation and educational funding system are unconstitutional have agreed to a schedule that will see the case ready for trial on July 8, 2020.

"It is expected that the trial will take four days," says a stipulated scheduling order signed by Vermont Assistant Attorney General David Boyd and attorney Adam Waite of Costello, Valente & Gentry in Brattleboro.

On Tuesday, Judge Michael R. Kainen approved the schedule in Windham Superior Court, Civil Division. It says the plaintiffs — the town of Whitingham, a student at Twin Valley Middle High School and a taxpayer — should disclose their experts no later than Nov. 8 and make them available for depositions no later than Jan. 9. The state is to disclose its experts no later than Feb. 7 and make them available for depositions no later than April 7.

All discovery is to be completed by May 8. All pre-trial motions should be served by June 8.

In an order late last year, Judge Robert Gerety said the court agreed with the plaintiffs in saying the town has the capacity to sue the state in order to protect its taxpayers and students from unconstitutional action and itself from potential legal exposure.

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"A just result requires developing a full factual record, based on evidence, not mere allegations, before assessing whether the statutes involved are violative of the Vermont Constitution," Gerety wrote in a decision and order denying the state's motion for judgment on the pleadings. "Accordingly, the court has determined that the parties shall be afforded a reasonable period of time to complete reasonable discovery targeted at the specific claims of the parties."

Following a hearing in September 2018, attorney James Valente told the Reformer his team did not agree with the state's argument that the case is only about the tax system.

"Our response to that is the tax system creates an educational problem," he said. "And as a result of the tax system, students don't receive substantially equal education."

In a filing, the state said the two formulas used to calculate homestead tax rates are meant ensure substantial quality of education, preserve local control and control costs, but "a perfect fit between the formulas and their goals is not required."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter

and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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