Property taxes are going up, it’s true. Here’s what I know.

First, an important note: We recently lost two pillars of our community, and it’s a heartbreak for their families and a true loss for all of us, not just on a personal level, but as a town. Peter Trono called me to task several times over various issues and was always kind, respectful, curious and fun to talk to. I valued his opinion and will keep it in the back of my mind always as I move forward as a legislator. Louise McCarren was funny and warm, and her intellect and wisdom was evident even when she was being her quirky self. I will miss her and our talks very much; she was generous with her advice and I felt lucky to be a recipient. We were so lucky to have her looking out for us, as she always did for so many.

And now, property taxes.

I had a community conversation hour at the library on Monday night. These are usually pretty affable gatherings with a few folks in the room who care about a specific cause or want to know more about a particular bill. I wasn’t surprised that Monday was all about property taxes, and that people are angry and frustrated. And you should be.

There are a lot of things wrong with how this is going down. First and foremost, the fact that it took most legislators by surprise is upsetting. I do my homework, I keep up with my emails, I communicate regularly with my colleagues about what’s happening around here, and I was still caught off-guard. I think it has to do partially with people truly not anticipating this perfect storm of catastrophic financial situations that all caught up with us at the same time. At the risk of getting myself into a little hot water, I also believe it involves a lack of communication from and between the governor and General Assembly leadership.

Our property taxes are going up. It’s inevitable. That’s about as much as I know right now, though, because we don’t know the tax rate yet and won’t until it’s set by the state after all the school budget figures come in. This is business as usual, but unfortunately seems especially confusing and egregious this year because we know they’re going to increase but we don’t know by how much.

By the time you’re reading this, there will have been several days of legislation, and the H850 bill that gets rid of the 5-percent cap and offers instead a cents discount to school districts will be working its way through the Senate. Our discount will be 17 cents per dollar on every $100,000 of property value, based on the 17-percent disadvantage we received when new pupil weights were configured. But we don’t know yet what our percentage will be. At this point, there will also have been a school board meeting and a Champlain Valley School District community forum. It’s possible that the school district will rework and then rewarn our budget so we can vote on it in April, but that’s up to the school board. I strongly encourage the school board to take a crack at reconfiguring our budget so we can save some money and avoid a budget failure and all the complications that go along with that.

There are layers of fixes in the works: some are Band-Aids that will help in the short-term, like the cent discounts and whatever quick-fix revenue streams the legislature can come up with in this session and in 2025. Longer-term fixes are critical, however. This can look like school consolidation in more rural districts, or cutting staff and programs from our schools across the state, or creating a state-wide school district to remove many administrative and operating costs. It’s hard to know where this all will lead or what the solutions will be, but I do know it’s going to take a combination of remedies, some faster than others.

I want to be clear about a few things: first, I hear all of you. I get it. I’m not saying in any way that you shouldn’t feel upset about the situation; it’s stressful and upsetting. I truly don’t want your taxes to go up this much. I don’t want my own taxes to go up this much, either. I also don’t hear people in Montpelier who think this isn’t a big deal, or who think we’re just going to have to deal with it. We are going through all the options.

I also want to stress the importance of our schools. Public schools are the backbone of our community. Many years ago, we made a collective decision as Vermonters to support educating all children across the state as best we can in order to help them all thrive.

If you have questions or concerns: 917-887-8231 to call or text; if you’d like to email.