Have you had your property tax adjusted yet?

This is a tough summer for many people. On top of skyrocketing gasoline and home heating fuel costs, bills for the first installment of property taxes were due Aug. 15 in some towns. The average Vermont taxpayer will pay increased school property taxes of 8.7 percent because of increases in school spending and in property tax values. This is the first year, in the six years that Ive served in the House, that the statewide property tax rate has not been reduced. Property values have increased. In the past, the tax rate would be reduced to compensate at least partially for increased property values. This year, values have increased but the rate hasnt decreased. The net result is higher property tax bills. The legislature is following the typical mode of operation when budget times get tough, the burden is shifted to the property taxpayer so that legislators dont have to cut programs or vote for a tax rate increase. Property taxes have in fact been increased because legislators didnt cut the statewide property tax rate. Legislators can duck responsibility because there wasnt a specific vote to increase the property tax rate. Property tax bills increase automatically under the statewide property tax because of increases in property values. This is the second year that people with income below $90,000 are not receiving separate checks for their property tax adjustments. Instead, the Vermont Tax Department has sent lists to towns of the amounts of adjustments that are to be credited against taxpayers property tax bills. The reason for this change is that the majority in the Legislature thought that many Vermonters didnt understand that the property tax adjustment checks were a reduction in their property taxes. I voted against this change, because I think Vermonters are smart enough to understand the difference between an income tax refund check and a property tax adjustment check, it has been very complicated to administer, its compromised taxpayers privacy, and has hurt taxpayers ability to manage their cash. Im very concerned that there are people who arent getting the property tax adjustment that they need in order to pay their property tax bills because of the complications. In July of 2007, the Tax Department advised the Town of Shelburne that 996 properties in Shelburne were entitled to $1,677,000 in property tax adjustments. This July, the Tax Department notified the Town that 894 properties were entitled to $1,469,000 in adjustments. With property taxes increasing, it doesnt seem to make sense that there would be a 10 percent reduction in households in Shelburne entitled to property tax adjustments. Ive heard from a number of Shelburne residents who didnt receive property tax adjustments last year because of various paperwork problems. I hope that these problems havent gotten worse this year. If you have experienced a problem, Id like to hear from you because I might be able to help and I want to know how these laws are affecting Shelburne residents. Please call me if you have questions or concerns. You can reach me at 985-2329 or e-mail to :jerrecart@usa.net. Joyce Errecart is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-1 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel.

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