Tax rates earlier forecasted to spike across the six towns of the Lamoille North Supervisory Union are now only expected to increase slightly, or even decrease, next year if voters approve their school budgets.
School officials and administrators in the merged school district — Belvidere, Eden, Hyde Park, Johnson and Waterville as full members and Cambridge as a partial member — initially expected property tax bills to skyrocket, despite level funding.
The anticipated tax increase and higher property tax bills were due mostly to state-calculated education tax rates, and those numbers have already changed drastically since 2021 began.
Those changes should translate to minor increases to tax bills in Belvidere, Cambridge, Hyde Park and Waterville. Taxpayers in Johnson and Eden will see even more of a reprieve, as education tax bills there should go down.
According to Lamoille North business manager Deb Clark, the change is partly due to new equalized pupil numbers. Lamoille North’s equalized pupil counts went up, Clark said, which lowers estimated tax rates.
Other statewide education figures are also now adding to a more positive outlook to education tax rates across Vermont, and that should translate to lower-than-expected property tax bills for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Across Lamoille North, initial projections showed potential property tax bills from an extra $65 per $100,000 of property value in Johnson to an additional $154 in Belvidere.
When crafting budget proposals the Lamoille North merged school board and separate Cambridge School Board tweaked them repeatedly and applied hundreds of thousands of dollars in surplus funding to reign in property tax rate spikes.
Those efforts led to nearly level-funded budget proposals —the combined budgets for the merged district, which don’t include Cambridge Elementary, was $25,574,226, $21,000 less than current spending.
State numbers won’t be finalized for months, but right now it looks like projected property tax rates will help moderate any tax bill increases.
The largest increase is forecasted in Cambridge, where the tax rate for the coming year is expected to be $1.59 per $100 of property value, roughly 3 cents more than the current rate. That is expected to add $31.98 per $100,000 of property value. Other tax rate and tax bill impacts, under current estimates, are as follows:
• Belvidere, with a rate of $1.66, or 3 cents more than the current rate, adds $28.18 per $100,000 of property value.
• In Hyde Park, at $1.64, a 2 cent jump, adds roughly $20 to the tax bill of a $100,000 home.
• Waterville’s new rate, $1.65, would add about $16.62 per $100,000 of value. That rate is up a cent and a half from last year.
Property owners in two towns in the district, Eden and Johnson, could see lower tax rates and tax bills.
• In Eden, a new education rate of $1.63, down about 2 cents, drops the taxes on a $100,000 property by $20.
• The decrease is even bigger in Johnson, where the new rate, $1.53 — roughly 5 cents lower — would decrease tax bills roughly $50 per $100,000 of property.
Clark said that all of the new state education tax rates figures came to light after warnings for upcoming town meetings were finalized, so the information on those warnings and in town reports paints a more grim picture than what now appears to be the reality.
While those recent changes to tax rate projections are good news for the owners of residential properties across Lamoille North, the owners of non-residential properties — second homes and businesses — can expect increases in their tax bills ranging from $16 to $103 per $100,000 of property value, depending on where they are located.