Greek Life petitions against tax bill

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Members of Greek life are fighting to repeal a bill that eliminates the property tax exemption on their houses.

The bill will go into effect January 2017, unless the new opposing bill is passed before May, when Vermont’s legislative session ends, sophomore Will Sudbay said.

“We are basically in the 11th hour as far as getting this passed goes,” he said.

The Alpha Chi Omega sorority is pictured Sept. 28. PHOTO COURTE- SY OF BAILEY KIMBALL

[/media-credit] The Alpha Chi Omega sorority is pictured Sept. 28. PHOTO COURTE- SY OF BAILEY KIMBALL

Sudbay, a member of the Sigma Phi Society, said Rep. Barbara Rachelson drafted the new bill on behalf of efforts by UVM’s Greek community.

UVM’s Greek community created a website, savegreeklifeatuvm.com, to raise awareness of the issue and garner support for the bill. A petition on the website had received 1,663 signatures as of Feb. 15.

The potential total cost of the property tax for Greek houses would be $350,576, according to the website.

This breaks down into $241,082 paid to the state in taxes, while the city of Burlington would receive $109,494 from the houses.

Greek life does not have funding to pay for the additional taxes, so the fees would fall on the students and be tacked onto their dues, Sudbay said.

However, the state comes up with different numbers.

The estimated property tax on Greek life is $173,000, according to the Vermont Tax Expenditures 2015 Biennial Report.

If the bill is unsuccessful, Greek organizations are hoping to compromise and reduce the city tax burden on properties by 50 percent, Sudbay said.

For sophomore Norma Techarukpong, a member of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority, the issue is mostly about the meaning of home.

“Our house was built by Pi Phis, for Pi Phis,” Techaruk- pong said.

Most members of Pi Beta Phi pay their own dues, and the new taxes would increase their financial burden, she said.

A rally in support of Greek life will take place in the Davis Center March 3.