Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887): House Floor May 10, 2024

Representative Kornheiser introduced the Senate changes on H.887 to the House Floor Friday night. Her proposal of amendment embedded the education finance study into the Commission on the Future of Education. They also proposed an excess spending threshold of 118% above average district spend, which splits the difference between the original positions of the two bodies.

They were able to get average property tax bill increases to 13.8% as well as re-introduce the property tax credit thanks to the new revenues that the Senate had added, plus an updated spending forecast. Representative Conlon supported the amendment, saying that it “strengthens and streamlines the Commission on Public education,” he added that there are “no easy answers, only hard decisions.” He argued that “we know the field is ready like never before,” to rethink the education system, but that it should be “done with stakeholders, not to them.”

NOTE: While using flowery language, what he is saying (and the bill is saying overall) is that education special interests should have a seat at the table as they re-imagine public education. Unions and associations representing teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, and even school business administrators will have a vote, potentially even a controlling one, in this Commission.

After a brief discussion about the mechanisms of the underlying bill and how the amendments would change them. Representative Sibilia stood up to call out the $96M in one-time funds used to buy-down local property tax rates. “These types of buy-downs exacerbate the problem,” she argued. These funds will not be available next year to insulate property taxpayers from local spending decisions.

NOTE: She is right. These buy-downs just lead to more spending because it amounts to “free money” for school districts. Meaning they can increase spending without it impacting their local tax rate. The ONLY accountability mechanism in the current system is local property tax rates, which the Legislature has a habit of diluting when they add new non-property tax revenues to the system.

Representative Toof spoke next, arguing that this bill was “not going fix the structural problems with our education system, this is putting a band aid on this issue… my grandmother is in her 90s and spends $20 per week on groceries and this 13% increase that is going to affect her.” He continued to share a story about his mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was facing medical bills and travel costs to get to her doctor in Burlington. He was worried how this was going to impact his parents because they are now on fixed incomes and facing these escalating costs. He pointed to the lack of structural changes, saying that “this is wrong. We can do better.”

The House voted 93-44 in favor of the bill as amended.

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