St. Johnsbury Property Tax Increase

St. Johnsbury- Property tax payers in St. Johnsbury could be seeing an increase in their tax rate due to the Town and School budget increasing. The town held their anual meeting last night where they laid out proposals for both the Town and School Budget for the next fiscal year.

The proposal calls for a town-operating budget of $2,975,706. This is an increase of just about 4.5% from the current fiscal year. The town budget increase is due to higher cost in providing services to the taxpayer, as well as adding additional reserve funding that didn't exist before.

"There's always increasing cost in health care and insurances, and just overall inflation, but we do have control over some pieces of it," says Chad Whitehead Town Manager of Saint Johnsbury. " The whole idea of moving into developing reserve funds, it's not a new concept, the town has always had reserve funding, but it's been depleted over the last few years," Whitehead said.

Part of the reserve funding will likely go to the Department of Public Works, which needs to replace 10 plow trucks over the next few years. Each truck will cost a hefty $175,000.

"Its just everything's worn out. Clutches, Axels, springs, anything that can break will break sooner or later," said Gary Bumps, the assistant director for the Public Works Department.

Right now the Department has 16 trucks total, and all of the trucks are between 13 and 7 years old and are beginning to get rusty and breakdown.

"In the past the Town cut reserves to try to keep taxes down, but now we face replacement of 10 plow trucks in the next few years, but there are no reserve funds set aside. Based on the anticipated life expectancy of a plow truck, we should fund 1 truck per year," Whitehead says.

The school is facing budget problems of there own, mostly because of an unexpected spike in enrollment from the high school. The student overload has forced school officials to take money from the kindergarten through eighth grade budget.

"In years that we have unanticipated students coming into high school we could pull that reserve money instead of taking it from the Kindergarten through eighth grade budget," says Dr.Margaret Bledsoe, Superintendent of the Saint Johnsbury School. "Because it's not fair that kids in this school can't get certain books that we know they need because we have additional high school students. We want the two parts of the budget to stand alone, so we need a little cushion," Bledsoe said.

The School will raise it's budget by 3.27% which will allow for a tuition reserve fund, however, the school will need to cut cost in other areas in order to provide the same level of service they have now next year. Those cuts include laying off one full time teacher, two teacher aid assistants, and reducing one bus route. 

If the School budget passes, it would raise property taxes on a $150,000 home by approximately $38. If voters approve the Town budget, it will raise property taxes to $72.95 inside the special service district and $52.40 outside the special services district.