Scott Beck for New Education Formula

Lyndon Educaiton ThumbnailVERMONT- Caledonia State Representative Scott Beck has hopes this year that the state legislature will pass the bill H.911 that he has proposed to make changes to Vermont's education funding formula.


Beck, who is on the House Committee of Education says that bill H.911 would make changes to Vermont's income tax schedule and rates, "mostly in order to protect Vermonters that would have paid more because of the recent federal tax bill." Beck says the bill would collect more education taxes through income and less from property taxes and that the bill would change how education rates are determined.

The idea of the bill came about when Beck noticed changes to the calculation of education rates. This is the byproduct of a close examination of district spending decisions and rates received by the districts. "My examination concluded that district education rates were discounted significantly, 55% from what is required to support their spending decisions."

The bill, if passed would establish a base district spending amount and associated base tax rate and an additional rate for spending over the base. The current system is structured so lower spending districts end up supporting higher-spending districts, which Beck believes isn't fair.

Jennifer Botzojorn Superintendent of the Kingdom East School District says the research she's done says the bill won't decrease the money going towards education but just shift where it comes from. "Property taxes would be lower than they currently are, but income taxes would raise."

She believes with Representatives trying to make the education formula more transparent isn't going to be effective because the old and new model are very similar. "Currently there's about eight, ten different steps. This new formula it's a similar number of steps." Botzojorn says the goal was trying to decrease the amount of tax increase and that's not happening here, "I don't see that it does that. I just see that it shifts that to different areas."

If the bill is passed, districts that are relatively low spenders would see significant property tax reductions. Beck says, "much of the NEK is in this category, and we would benefit". But Botzojorn has different feelings, she is writing to all legislatures to ask to put the bill into effect in the next fiscal year not this coming one.

"We put a lot of work into figuring out what tax rate would be based on what they are. I don't have any problem with relooking at tax rates and changing them, so they work better for everybody. What I do have a problem with is not knowing that information while building our budget."

She says if the bill does go through it will be difficult to build a budget, knowing the tax rate could change. "We're going to be scrambling to figure out what that's going to do to for our revenue and tax rates. And it's much easier to do that when we're planning a budget after we've already planned a budget."

She also says the bill would throw off the timing with collecting taxes. "If it's shifted to income tax. You tell what your income tax is on April 15th when you fill out your form. So, there's this whole timing thing, where the funds won't be available because it's not until next year on April 15th when you get those income taxes."

Beck believes H.911 would closely connect a district's spending to its tax rate. "The loose connection that currently exists has not proven to be an effective brake on education spending increases that outpace inflation and wage growth."

Botzojorn says she is in support of the bill but not doing it quickly. "I always support relooking at how we asses' taxes and trying to figure that out. What I don't support is doing it quickly and not doing it with enough fore-thought, so we know how it's going to impact people, so they can make educated decisions." She wants to be fair to the tax payers because it's difficult to go to public meetings and talk about budgets and how much the schools are costing and not be able to give more information.

"We'll work with whatever money is available to us and whatever is affordable for the tax payers without being able to disaggregate that and know this is what this is going to cost for the people of Lyndon, Concord, Newark."

Since the initial proposal in January of this year, there have been tweaks and adjustments made to the bill. H.911 is currently in the Senate and the Senate Finance Committee is taking testimony.