by Jose Aguayo
Act 46, a complex new law aiming to reshape Vermont’s education landscape through district consolidation, will impact the lives (as well as property taxes) of many, according to discussions held at the Agency of Education in Barre December 17.While Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe stated that no specific mandates exist to merge districts to meet a certain size criteria, the agency’s finance manager, Brad James, explained that district property taxes will increase by a penny for every $100 spent above the previous year’s ‘cost containment per pupil threshold’ amount. In other words, if student population falls in a small district, taxpayers may be penalized by Act 46.
Districts are being offered various incentives to ease the financial burden of restructuring, including grants to carry out merger feasibility studies, as well as 10 cents off property taxes for districts that choose to move forward with mergers and have voter approval by June 30, 2016. This property tax reduction will come down by 2 cents each subsequent year, for a total 5-year tax incentive of 30 cents. Districts choosing to merge into a new administrative entity will not be assessed a ‘cost containment per pupil threshold’ in the first year of operation.
Holcombe and Hazen Union School Board Chair David F. Kelley will discuss Act 46 and other critical education issues on January 14. The event, organized by The Bridge, will be moderated by former Vermont House member Donny Osman who served on the House Education Committee. Join them in the Hayes Room of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier. Free and open to the public.