By Neil Johnson
Have you heard? Vermont has been giving away your school funding dollars to enrich developers. Wonder why your school must close? Wonder why you can’t fund your schools? Well, look no further than Montpelier. After they got all your hard earned dollars, they give it away to developers and towns looking for free rides. All in the name of “free” money.
Let me explain. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money is property tax. Property tax pays for our schools. As every owner knows, most of your property tax goes to school funding (or so we thought). Property tax equals school funding.
Now enter TIF. Tax Increment Financing is a sophisticated way of saying “we’re giving your school funding dollars for the next 20 years to pay for this developer’s dream.” Does Joey really need that sandwich at lunch? And worse, town officials will call this an excellent investment for the town because it’s “free” money from the state. That money was earmarked to fund your schools. Free money is like crack cocaine to town officials — they can’t stay away.
There is no free money.
This became painfully clear when reviewing South Burlington’s “Town Center” proposal. Take a look at it — doesn’t look like any Vermont I know. It looks like developers cramming as much as they can on to a small area. But how does this affect our town?
Yeah, you’ll have to close your school because South Burlington, a rich town with the best school and highest paid teachers, will be spending over $20 million dollars of your school funding over the next 20 years to pay for their “free” library, recreation center, town office, etc. Let that sink in. Want to know something else? It’s going on all across our state.
TIF money is your school funding tax dollars going to developers. Adding insult to injury, they do it in the name of free money.
When you start looking under the hood in Montpelier it becomes clear we need to rebuild our motor. We are run by lobbyists, PACs, nonprofits, well connected people — everyone but our representatives. We need change. There are obvious reasons why we are broke and struggle, and this is only one example.
Neil Johnson, of Waitsfield, is state chair of the Green Mountain Party and a 2018 candidate for state House in the Washington 7 district.