Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I'm not planning to present, talk, or even open my mouth but ...Opinion

Sebastian Frank

11:14 AM (10 minutes ago)

I did want to share my latest thoughts. Hopefully they are less "inflammatory" and more accurate. Feel free to delete, dislike, disagree, love, hate, whatever.

Act 46 boils down to a struggle between local control versus tax incentives. Some think that to portray Act 46 as a stark contest between democracy and taxes is overly simplistic and therefore misleading or dishonest. Yes, it is possible that the stakes of Act 46 could change dramatically if the TRSU study committee develops (and the Vermont State Board of Education approves) a radically alternative interpretation of the law. Having said that, however, it’s still basically true that Act 46 is the state’s attempt to arrange for a “unified union school district” to purchase a set of rights and responsibilities (“local control”) from Mount Holly citizens by providing these citizens with a temporary reduction in property taxes.

As far as I know, nobody has written down a complete list of what actually constitutes “local control” but it would probably include items such as “approve the Mount Holly School budget” and “have the final say in who gets hired to teach.” To be fair, a great deal of the Mount Holly School budget is determined by forces that are not even faintly controlled by Mount Holly voters. And so it would be prudent if we knew, as accurately as possible, what percent of the budget is actually controlled by Mount Holly and what percent is actually controlled by things like insurance rates, federal and state laws, existing contracts, etc. If we are going to sell to a Two Rivers Unified Union School District a majority share in the right to control the Mount Holly Budget, it is important to know if Mount Holly citizens (via the school board) actually control 1% of that budget or 5% of that budget or 25% of that budget. If we actually only control 1% of the Mount Holly School budget, then the real value of any tax incentive is, one could argue, worth about ten times more than if we actually control 10%.

Before we break out the champagne (or pitchforks), it is important to clarify whether or not the temporary reduction in property taxes would directly affect everyone in Mount Holly evenly or if they would directly benefit only those who own property. If the tax reductions would directly benefit only those who own property, would all property owners benefit evenly or would some benefit more than others? If some would benefit more than others, who would benefit most and who would benefit least? For example, does income sensitivity influence how much a property owner would benefit? Would those who own more land benefit more? Would those who own second-homes benefit differently from homesteaders?

The enumeration of the rights and responsibilities that we call “local control” and the examination of precisely which citizens would directly benefit from a temporary reduction in property taxes must be answered before the town can responsibly vote to approve the potential sale of our collective rights.

No comments:

Post a Comment