The Senate Finance Committee had been kicking around the property tax bill, H.492, for a couple weeks and circled back again on Friday. They also had a fresh Education Fund Outlook to look at. The Senate’s version did not include cannabis retail taxes and had a slightly higher average property tax bill. It also had a slightly lower carry-over from the previous year based on the latest projections.
Chairwoman Cummings pointed out that that “these changes” were primarily “being done elsewhere” and they have to square them in the Education Fund. There was a brief discussion over the afterschool meals budget allocation and the $29M line item for PCB remediation ($16M of which was Burlington alone).
Cummings was concerned that PCB testing would “turn up” another Burlington level cost and that “folks” were nervous about the unpredictable nature of that. That was particularly concerning to her because they were unlikely to continue seeing surpluses that “automatically buy-down tax rates.”
Further, she expressed frustration that they have not “gotten consensus” around “taxing business differently” with property taxes. She couldn’t clearly articulate a thought, but it appeared that she was trying to get at splitting different categories of non-homestead property out separately.
Discussion eventually moved back to the mechanics of the Education Fund and the question the Committee was really grappling with was how much revenue to roll forward to next year. In their current version of the fund outlook they had $13M set aside to buy-down rates for the following year.
Senator Brock said he was fine with leaving the $13M in as tax rate reserve to offset potential increases in future years. Cummings agreed as long as they “all realize it won’t be in the reserve for if the economy stalls.” Brock joked that it happens they would say “it was Senator Cummings idea.”
They briefly touched on H.480, Senator MacDonald and Cummings clearly see this as a vehicle for splitting out multiple categories from the non-homestead property tax category to get at commercial and industrial properties.