Property taxes to rise

Rate increases by 13 cents for homeowners

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Williston residents will pay a slightly lower property tax rate than was estimated in March, but the rate will still rise substantially compared to last year.

The residential tax rate of about $1.71 is a penny-and-half lower than was projected when both the municipal and school budgets passed in March. The education tax rate accounts for $1.60, while the municipal rate produces another 11 cents. The state set the education tax rate last week.

The combined tax rate amounts to an increase of 13 cents over the property tax rate during the 2004-05 fiscal year, which just ended June 30.

The owner of a $250,000 home will pay $4,300 in property taxes under the new rate, $325 more than during the previous year.

The sharp increase comes a year after Act 68, a new education funding law that replaced Act 60, helped cut the property tax rate for all properties in town by 26 cents. Local officials said at the time the reduction was a one-time event and would be followed by a climbing property tax rate.

The education rate represents a 9-cent increase over the previous fiscal year. According to the Williston School District, about half of that was attributed to a 3 percent decrease in the common level of appraisal in town.

The CLA measures a percentage of the fair market value of property, based on sales, that is reflected in a town’s grand list. As the CLA drops, the property tax rate increases to cover the corresponding increases in property values.

Also, in the education rate increase, Williston’s share of the $19 million renovation project at Champlain Valley Union High School contributed about 3 cents.

On the municipal rate, which climbed nearly 4 cents from 8 cents, the chief catalysts for the tax hike were payments on Williston’s $6.3 million public safety facilities bond and the town’s decision to contribute $147,300 to help continue bus service in town. The municipal budget increased 15.5 percent over the previous year.

The increased municipal spending was partially offset by a rise in revenue produced by local sales and rooms and meals taxes. Without the approximately $2.7 million those taxes produce, the municipal rate would be 24 cents higher — a savings of $600 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

The non-residential property tax rate will be about $1.70 this fiscal year — a reversal from the recently concluded year, when commercial property owners paid a higher rate than residential property owners. The non-residential rate, which, unlike the residential rate, is not tied to school spending, was $1.64 during the past fiscal year. Residential and non-residential properties share the same municipal rate.

The owner of a $500,000 commercial building will pay $8,500 in property taxes this year