Recently released CLA figures could raise property tax rates in Franklin County; some municipalities under review | News

FRANKLIN COUNTY – As property values ​​rise, Franklin County tax rates follow suit.

Due to the tax funding formulas set by the state, residents of Franklin County could be paying higher bills on their education property tax rates this year as the state responds to increased taxes. real estate market price.

This does not necessarily mean that the final education property tax rate will be higher than last year. An expected budget surplus of $ 90 million could lower the state’s base tax rate even further, and Vermont has yet to decide on the final number.

But as property values ​​rise in all areas of Franklin County, local municipalities are bracing for the consequences posed by the new Common Level of Assessment Figures, or CLA, which determine how much residents pay into the education system. of State.

The number, which is released annually in December, helps the state ensure that taxes are adjusted according to the market value of real estate, and they directly affect education property tax rates. each city according to their ebb and flow.

If a government’s CLA increases, the school tax rate for its residents decreases. If the CLA decreases, the tax rate increases.

This year, all municipalities in Franklin County have seen their CLA drop.

Government reactions

St. Albans City Board Chairman Brendan Deso addressed the city’s declining CLA at Monday night’s board meeting, and expressed concern over its effects on city tax rate.

Over the past two years, the city’s CLA has fallen just over 11 points – from 101.16 to 90.41, and he estimated the drop could lead to an increase of 10 cents per $ 100 d property assessment on property taxes.

Such an increase could hamper some of the city’s plans for a public works fundraising campaign, he said.

“I’ve been lobbying for the capital plan to replace the public works and parks apparatus for almost a year now,” he said. “Knowing that and not knowing how the legislator will respond to it, I don’t know if it would be possible this year. I think there is a risk that it will fail, honestly.

He said he planned to speak to the city’s legislative delegation to see if anything could be done at the Vermont Statehouse.

“We could have a 60 cents [municipal] tax rate and do whatever we need if we weren’t handcuffed to this really high school tax rate, ”he said.

Reassessments

Another aspect of CLA is that the number is also used to trigger property assessments if market values ​​end up falling too far from the property’s assessment.

The latest figures, released in December 2021, will likely spark such efforts in Fairfield, Fletcher and St. Albans City. The City of Fairfax, however, has planned ahead.

It will complete the reassessment process by June.

“It went pretty well,” said Fairfax reviewer Patricia McNall. “It’s drawing to a close now. “

McNall said the city was close to meeting the requirement for a reassessment – a CLA under 85 – last year, and it expected the city’s CLA to drop sharply by then that the real estate market continued to heat up.

So Fairfax continued the multi-year effort by working with the New England Municipal Resource Center to re-evaluate the exterior of each property.

Assessors ignored interior inspections due to COVID-19 precautions.

In St. Albans City, however, the latest CLA was a bit more surprising. It fell 4.89 year over year, and city manager Dominic Cloud said he would take a closer look at the numbers that determine the CLA to see if the results weren’t a “bug in the sky.” the dataset “.

If the number holds, however, the city will need to begin the reassessment process.

“We’re still sort of digesting the review, there had been a downtrend for a while and we seemed to be getting there a little quicker than we expected,” Cloud said.

To complete the work, the city would hire an outside consultant, which Cloud estimated would cost somewhere in the six-figure range.

“It’s not all bad news,” Cloud said. “Communities that are vibrant, growing and investing are those that experience a CLA shift. Your CLA can stay stagnant for a long time if the community is stagnant.

The Franklin County municipality with the largest year-over-year CLA slide was Richford. His CLA was down 8.2. It also had the highest CLA – 104.14 – of any town in Franklin County.

Penny D. Jackson