By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Around 60 Middlebury voters on April 9 overwhelmingly approved, by voice vote, a 2008-2009 Mary Hogan Elementary School budget of $5,624,785.
Voters asked ID-4 school board members several questions during a roughly hour-long discussion that preceded the vote. Serena Eddy-Moulton, chairwoman of the ID-4 board, said some of the voters’ questions keyed on the impact of the spending plan on the local education property tax.
While the budget reflects a 2.59-percent increase in spending, it results in an 8.4-percent hike in the homestead education property tax rate for Middlebury residents. The rate for Middlebury homeowners will be $1.576 per $100 of property value, up about 12 cents. That represents an increase of $240 on a $200,000 home.
The education tax rate in Middlebury for non-residential property will increase 13.7 cents, or 10.2 percent, to $1.48 per $100 of property.
The hike in the education tax for homeowners is the result of the “common level of appraisal,” or CLA, provision of the state’s education funding law. The CLA compares local property value assessments with the state’s estimation of actual market value. Communities in which property is less than, or more than, market value are required to adjust their tax rates. The goal of the CLA is to equalize property taxes across towns.
In Middlebury’s case, local property was judged to be appraised below market value so the CLA pushed up the education component of the property tax.
“People didn’t understand how the CLA affects the budget,” Eddy-Moulton said of a recurring theme at the April 9 meeting.
But ultimately, a vast majority of voters rallied behind the budget, according to Eddy-Moulton. The spending plans reflects restoration of an education technology position that had been cut a few years ago; the reduction of a second-grade teacher position and some special education staff; an increase of 5 percent in health insurance premiums; and anticipated rises in fuel and electricity costs.
“We would like to express our appreciation for the support the community continues to extend to its children,” Eddy-Moulton said.