Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Property Taxes, Education, and Health Insurance

Property taxes are a major political issue all over the country and Vermont is no exception. I'm sure that property taxes are a burden, particularly for those who bought their houses many years ago when property values in Vermont were much lower. The common solution that many propose to the property tax burden in Vermont seems to be slashing the school budget, or as Vermont Governor Jim Douglas proposes, capping education spending. The questions I have regarding this issue are the following:

1.Are property taxes really the major financial burden of the majority of Vermonters? What percentage of Vermonters own homes?

2. What are the major financial burdens that middle-class Vermonters are facing today? How does these financial burndens effect property taxes?

2.Is reducing the school budget a reasonable approach to bringing property taxes under control?

I did a little research and found some answers to these questions that drew me to make some probably unpopular conclusions about property taxes and school funding.

I have several issues with the property taxes and education spending obsession that seem to plague many people. The first issue is that not all Vermonters are lucky enough to own property. According to my initial demographic research, at least 30% of Vermonters are not homeowners. This number is undoubtedly much higher as it is easier to get demographic information from individuals who own property and live at the same address for an extended period of time. Why are all Vermonters not financially able to buy their own home? Clearly, property taxes are not the financial burden for them since they don't own property. As a Vermonter who does not own a home because I am not in a financial position to do so, I can tell you that the major financial burdens that prevent me from buying a home right now are student loans, car insurance/payment, fuel, health care, and rent. I know I am not alone.

The rising cost of health insurance and premiums is perhaps the biggest financial burden that all Vermonters are grappling with. According to a recent article in the Burlington Free Press, between 2000 and 2006, family premiums have increased 80 percent, while wages rose by only 24 percent. The article breaks it town in terms of dollar cost as well. Put your coffee cup down because these numbers are pretty upsetting.

Individual health insur
ance premiums rose an average of $415, or 88 percent (from $471 to $887) over the six-year period for workers and $1,745 for employers, from $2,214 to $3,958.

Median earnings rose 24 percent from $22,155 to $27,515 over the six-year period.

Here is the link for the entire article entitled, "Healthcare Premiums Rising Faster than Earnings"

Increases in the school budgets are largely due to this increased cost of health insurance for school staff. Voicing complaints about class size and teacher salaries to the school board may make Vermonters feel like they have a voice in their property tax burden, but complaints about school budgets should be directed to the health insurance and pharmeceutical companies that are really driving up the cost of public education.

Healthcare should not be a money making enterprise. It should be a right of citizenship . If our tax dollars go towards medical research then everyone should be able to reap the benefits of this research without an excessive financial burden. So, next time you want to go to a school board meeting and complain about property taxes, consider giving Blue Cross/Blue Shield or Cigna a phone call and voicing your frustration to them. You're more likely to see a drop in property taxes with this strategy.


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