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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.514

Introduced by Representatives Koch of Barre Town, Clark of Vergennes, O’Donnell of Vernon, Baker of West Rutland, Brennan of Colchester, Devereux of Mount Holly, Donaghy of Poultney, Helm of Castleton, Howrigan of Fairfield, Larocque of Barnet, Larrabee of Danville, Livingston of Manchester, McAllister of Highgate, Morrissey of Bennington, Myers of Essex, Turner of Milton, Valliere of Barre City and Westman of Cambridge

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Education finance; property taxation

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to constrain the growth in school property taxes and education spending to a rate of 3.5 percent, which is equivalent to the rate of personal income growth of Vermonters.  To achieve this goal of property tax affordability, the bill proposes to:  (1) establish a “soft” cap on local school spending that can be overridden by 60 percent of local voters; (2) close loopholes in the prebate program and rescind expansions in the program beyond those originally established by Act No. 68; (3) cap changes in CLAs at the 90th percentile; (4) enact measures that will enhance voter awareness and involvement in school spending decisions; and (5) eliminate school property taxes on farmland owned by farmers who meet the 50 percent income test.

AN ACT RELATING TO EDUCATION FINANCING AND PROPERTY TAXATION

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

* * * Tax exemption for land enrolled in current use by farmers * * *

Sec. 1.  32 V.S.A. § 5401(10)(J) is added to read:

(10)  “Nonresidential property” means all property except:

* * *

(J)  Agricultural land and managed forest land that is owned and enrolled in the use value appraisal program by a person who qualifies as a farmer, as defined in subdivision 3752(7) of this title, in two of the preceding five years.

* * * Common Level of Appraisal * * *

Sec. 2.  32 V.S.A. § 5402(b)(1) is amended to read:

(b)  Calculation of education tax.

(1)  The commissioner of taxes shall determine for each municipality the education tax rates under subsection (a) of this section, divided by the municipality’s most recent common level of appraisal.  For purposes of this calculation, the “most recent common level of appraisal” of a town that has not been certified under subsection 5406(c) of this title as having completed a reappraisal for current grand list shall not be lower than its prior year common level of appraisal reduced by the change in common level of appraisal percentage points experienced by the town at the 90th percentile when the common levels of appraisal of all municipalities, other than towns certified under subsection 5406(c) of this title, are arrayed by percentage of change from their respective prior year levels of appraisal.  The legislative body in each municipality shall then bill each property taxpayer at the homestead or nonresidential rate determined by the commissioner under this subdivision, multiplied by the education property tax grand list value of the property, properly classified as homestead or nonresidential property and without regard to any other tax classification of the property.  Each homestead property tax bill shall include notice of the education spending per equalized pupil in the taxpayer’s district and its relation to the base education payment; and the effect of the education spending in the district upon the homestead tax rate and the applicable percentage for income sensitivity; and shall also include an insert supplied by the commissioner of taxes which explains the relationship of district education spending and the common level of appraisal to property tax rates.  Tax bills shall show the tax due and the calculation of the rate determined under subsection (a) of this section, divided by the municipality’s most recent common level of appraisal, multiplied by the current grand list value of the property to be taxed.

* * * Income Sensitivity * * *

Sec. 3.  32 V.S.A. § 5402b is amended to read:

§ 5402b.  STATEWIDE EDUCATION TAX RATE ADJUSTMENTS

(a)  Annually, by December 1, the commissioner of taxes shall recommend to the general assembly, after consultation with the department of education, the secretary of administration and the joint fiscal office, the following adjustments in the statewide education tax rates under subdivisions 5402(a)(1) and (2) of this title:

* * *

(b)  If the commissioner makes a recommendation to the general assembly to adjust the education tax rates under section 5402 of this title, the commissioner shall also recommend a proportional adjustment to the applicable percentage base for homestead income based adjustments under section 6066 of this title, but the applicable percentage base shall not be adjusted below 1.8 percent.

Sec. 4.  32 V.S.A. § 6066(a)(1) is amended to read:

(1)(A)  For a claimant with household income of $90,000.00 $85,000.00 or more:

(i)  the statewide education tax rate as adjusted under subdivision 5402(a)(2) of this title, multiplied by the equalized value of the housesite;

(ii)  minus (if less) the sum of:

(I)  the applicable percentage of household income for the taxable year, plus

(II)  the statewide education tax rate as adjusted under subdivision 5402(a)(2) of this title, multiplied by the equalized value of the housesite in the taxable year in excess of $200,000.00.

(B)  For a claimant with household income of less than $90,000.00 $85,000.00 but more than $47,000.00, the statewide education tax rate as adjusted under subdivision 5402(a)(2) of this title, multiplied by the equalized value of the housesite, minus the applicable percentage of household income for the taxable year.

* * *

(D)  A claimant whose household income does not exceed $90,000.00 $85,000.00 shall also be entitled to an additional adjustment amount under this section of $10.00 per acre, up to a maximum of five acres, for each additional acre of homestead property in excess of the two‑acre housesite.  The adjustment amount under this section shall be shown separately on the notice of property tax adjustment to the claimant.


Sec. 5.  32 V.S.A. § 6067 is amended to read:

§ 6067.  CREDIT LIMITATIONS

Only one individual per household per taxable year shall be entitled to a benefit under this chapter.  Payments received under subdivision 6066(a)(1)(A) or (B) of this title with respect to any annual tax levy shall not exceed $4,000.00, and total payments received under this chapter with respect to any annual tax levy shall not exceed a total of $6,000.00, unless the claimant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the commissioner that the assets of the household members, excluding the housesite, do not exceed $300,000.00.

* * * Education Proposals * * *

Sec. 6.  PURPOSE

It is the purpose of this section and Secs. 8–10 of this act to enhance the knowledge and authority of voters in Vermont communities with respect to the collective bargaining processes that affect school budgets and operations.  This act is designed to provide critical information to Vermont communities regarding the context in which collective bargaining between teachers and school boards takes place and to enable the parties to collective bargaining negotiations voluntarily to submit matters in dispute to the voters of the school district for resolution thereof.


Sec. 7.  16 V.S.A. § 1984 is added to read:

§ 1984.  PUBLICATION OF COMPARATIVE DATA

On or before September 1 of each year, the commissioner shall publish the following comparative data, to the extent it is reasonably available, which shall be furnished on request and shall be displayed on the department of education website.  Before publishing the data, the commissioner shall consult with the commissioners of finance and management and of taxes.  The following data shall, except as otherwise specified, include the national average, a state‑by‑state listing, the Vermont average, and a Vermont school‑district‑by‑school district listing:

(1)  Pupil‑to‑teacher ratio;

(2)  Spending per pupil;

(3)  Spending per capita;

(4)  Spending per income level at the Vermont and national levels; and

(5)  At the Vermont state and school district levels, the statistical relationship between the outcomes on the student assessments described in subdivision 164(9) of this title and both pupil‑to‑teacher ratio and per‑pupil spending.


Sec. 8.  16 V.S.A. § 1985 is added to read:

§ 1985.  PUBLICATION OF BEST PRACTICES PLANS

On or before July 1, 2008, the commissioner, after consultation with school boards, teacher and administrator representatives, labor relations counsel, the Vermont labor board, and other appropriate resources shall publish a manual for use by school boards on best practices and related contract language for collective bargaining negotiations.  The manual shall be updated every four years thereafter.  The manual shall address at least the following areas:

(1)  Performance‑based evaluation systems;

(2)  Performance‑based reduction in force;

(3)  Health care benefits and management;

(4)  Pupil‑to‑teacher ratios and class size;

(5)  Time in class in relation to other duties; and

(6)  Grievance and arbitration procedures.

Sec. 9.  16 V.S.A. § 1986 is added to read:

§ 1986.  STRATEGIC INFORMATION AND DESIRED OUTCOMES PLAN

In any year in which the previous collective bargaining agreement expires or in the year in which collective bargaining will commence for the first time, a school board shall adopt a strategic information and desired outcome plan no later than 120 days prior to the next annual school district meeting.  A school board may contract with its member supervisory union pursuant to section 267 of this title for the development and presentation of the plan, which the school board may then ratify.  Prior to adoption or ratification, the school board shall offer the opportunity for public comment on the plan.  The plan shall include:

(1)  Income growth of district residents by low, middle, and upper income cohorts;

(2)  Current pupil‑to‑teacher ratio and desired ratio over the projected term of the upcoming contract;

(3)  Current spending per pupil and desired spending per pupil over the projected term of the upcoming contract; and

(4)  Identification of existing contract provisions where improvement is desired in order to conform the contract to best practices.

Sec. 10.  16 V.S.A. chapter 57, subchapter 5 is added to read:

Subchapter 5.  Submission of Outstanding Collective Bargaining Disputes to the Voters

§ 2031.  AGREEMENT TO SUBMIT DISPUTES TO VOTERS

(a)  Where a school board and a teacher organization holding exclusive negotiating rights have reached impasse in collective bargaining negotiations after mediation and fact‑finding under sections 2006 and 2007 of this title, they may jointly agree in writing to submit the dispute to resolution by the voters of the school district.  The written agreement shall specify whether the dispute being submitted to the voters is to resolve the package of issues under negotiation or any one or more particular issues under negotiation.  Once agreed to and executed, the agreement may not be revoked.

(b)  Upon execution of the agreement, the school board shall call and warn a meeting for not less than 30 nor more than 40 days before the meeting at which the vote on the resolution of the dispute will be taken.

(c)  The vote shall be by Australian ballot.  The form of the ballot shall be as follows:

“Shall the voters of  the               School District vote to approve the last best offer of the school board or the recognized teacher organization with respect to [the collective bargaining agreement as a whole] [the particular issue or issues of                   ]?  Vote for not more than one of the following:

The last best offer of the school board             [  ]

The last best offer of the recognized teacher organization        [  ]”

(d)  At the public informational hearing required by subsection 2680(g) of Title 17, the recognized teacher organization and the school board shall be given an opportunity to present their positions on any matter pending before the voters.

(e)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the result of the vote shall be binding on the parties.  A strike, which shall have the same meaning as provided in subdivision 1722(16) of Title 21, shall be prohibited if it occurs after both parties have voluntarily submitted a dispute to the voters under this section.  A school board may petition for an injunction or other appropriate relief from the superior court in the county wherein such strike in violation of this section is occurring or is about to occur.  A recognized teacher organization may also petition for an injunction or other appropriate relief from the superior court in the county wherein the school district is situated if the school board fails to adhere to the decision of the voters taken under this section.

Sec. 11.  16 V.S.A. § 562a is added to read:

§ 562a.  School budget; supermajority

Any authorization by the electorate pursuant to subdivision 562(8) of this title or a municipal charter of an amount of money in excess of 104 percent of the prior year authorization or prior year spending per equalized pupil shall require approval by 60 percent or more of those voting.

Sec. 12.  16 V.S.A. § 562a is amended to read:

§ 562a.  School budget; supermajority

Any authorization by the electorate pursuant to subdivision 562(8) of this title or a municipal charter of an amount of money in excess of 104 103.5 percent of the prior year authorization or prior year spending per equalized pupil shall require approval by 60 percent or more of those voting.


Sec. 13.  EFFECTIVE DATES

This act shall take effect upon passage except as follows:

(1)  Sec. 1 shall be effective for grand lists of April 1, 2008, and after.

(2)  Sec. 2 shall be effective for the study of the 2007 grand lists.

(3)  Secs. 3, 4, and 5 shall be effective for claims filed in 2008 and after.

(4)  Sec. 11 shall apply to the second fiscal year beginning after the effective date.

(5)  Sec. 12 shall apply to the third fiscal year beginning after the effective date and fiscal years thereafter.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us