Vernon Passes School Budget On Second Try

May 14, 2014

Voters in Vernon Tuesday passed a slightly pared-down version of the $4.4 million school budget they rejected at town meeting in March. Vernon School Board Chairman Mike Hebert said the board shaved about $50,000 from the original budget.

"We did say to people that we were going to do as much as we could without changing our offerings in the school and what we need to do to maintain our quality level education," Hebert said.

Hebert ties the initial rejection to worries about the unknown tax consequences of Vermont Yankee’s shutdown later this year. But last week Entergy, the plant’s owner, gave the Vernon School an unexpected gift of $50,000 for technology and playground improvements. There was good news from the legislature as well. Since the passage of Act 60, Vernon has paid a reduced statewide property tax rate, to compensate for taxes from Vermont Yankee that went directly to the state.

Hebert, who also represents Vernon in the legislature, said the special rate was scheduled to end when Yankee stopped producing power. He says the sudden change could have raised taxes in town by 50 percent. Earlier this year, Hebert introduced a bill to continue the tax break until the plant is decommissioned.

The final version offered a five-year phase-out instead. Vernon currently pays 75 percent of its state education tax assessment. Under the new arrangement it will pay 100 percent by 2019. Hebert says he’s pleased.

"I’m estimating somewhere around $3 million that the taxpayers will save, getting this soft landing as opposed to falling off a cliff." Hebert said no community should be expected to weather a tax change of that magnitude in a single year.