- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - About 35 Vermont communities have rejected their school budgets this year, according to a tally Wednesday from the Vermont School Boards Association, whose executive director sees half of those defeats as statements against rising property tax rates.

A total of 217 budgets passed on or before Town Meeting Day and 19 more remain to be voted on this year.

Burlington, Bennington, Rutland and Montpelier all turned down their school spending plans at Tuesday’s Town Meeting.

An increase in the statewide property tax is driving up school taxes in many communities across the state.

About half of the budgets had substantial increases, up to 30 percent in some communities, said Steve Dale, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association. The other half had modest increases of 2 to 4 percent but there were high tax increases that were well above any budget increases, he said.

“That’s what made this year particularly difficult in a lot of places,” Dale said.

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday that residents are frustrated by high spending, high property taxes and the complexity of the statewide education funding system.

“Vermonters know that their property taxes are too high and expect action to reflect that concern, locally and at the state level,” Shumlin said. “We are all in this together, and in Montpelier we will redouble efforts to improve the system to get better outcomes for our kids at a lower cost.”

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