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Whitingham: Education tax rate to be heaviest in state

WHITINGHAM—State Rep. Ann Manwaring, D-Wilmington, spoke at Whitingham’s Town Meeting, and warned voters that the town’s side of the education tax rate was slated to be the heaviest in the state.

The state considers Whitingham a sending town, or “gold town,” based on the town’s Grand List — a status that Whitingham unsuccessfully challenged in court. Meanwhile, an estimated 80 percent of Whitingham residents qualify for income sensitivity regarding the education tax.

The education portion of Whitingham’s property tax for fiscal year 2014, said Manwaring, will be hit by three factors:

• The first is linked to starting repaying a school construction bond to consolidate the high school, middle school and elementary schools and consolidate the Twin Valley School System.

• The second stems from a reappraisal of property owned by TransCanada Corp. According to Manwaring, the energy corporation had an agreement with the town about the value of a portion of property. TransCanada provided a payment to Whitingham in lieu of taxes. The state felt Whitingham should have charged TransCanada a higher tax rate.

• The third, said Manwaring, relates to the state recently approving increasing the statewide education tax by five cents.

Manwaring told voters that Act 60, the state’s education funding system, would not change unless Montpelier changed it.

“We have a battleship to turn,” Manwaring said.

She added that she believed Act 60 is not just a tax issue, but is an education issue as well. “What kind of education outcomes are the education dollars creating?” she asked rhetorically.

Where the conversation needs to change, she said, is around how tax monies come out of the education fund. One recent step forward came in the form of a House rule that stated bills that impact education funding must receive the same scrutiny as bills affecting the General Fund.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #193 (Wednesday, March 6, 2013).

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