March 2019 Seasonally Adjusted Vermont Labor Market Statistics

Latest data shows Vermont's unemployment rate has dropped from 2.7% to 2.4% from February 2018 to February 2019. Below is a graphic from the Vermont Department of Labor (DOL) detailing our civilian labor force, as well as a statement from DOL Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle. 

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Early April Paid Family Leave Update

Paid Family Leave update from week of April 2-6

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Early April Education Update

Below are rough notes highlighting what happened in Education last week (April 2-6).

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Commentary: Towns did everything right, but none of that seems to matter

This text comes from a commentary by Heidi Scheuermann, a Republican, representing Stowe in the Vermont House of Representatives. You can read the whole commentary, plus additional thoughts relating to tourism, at this link.

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Three Es Update

Campaign for Vermont's Three E's of Prosperity - education, ethics, and economics - have been getting a lot of attention in the State House this year. Here is a breakdown of what's been happening. 

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Commentary: Vermont Has a Negative Net Worth

Editor’s note: This commentary is by David Coates, a retired managing partner at KPMG — Vermont and a member of the Vermont Business Roundtable. He was a member of the 2010 state Commission on the Design and Funding of Retirement and Retiree Health Benefits Plans for State Employees and Teachers. He lives in Colchester.

Just recently the state’s financial statements were published for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. For perhaps the first time in history, the state’s balance sheet shows a negative net worth of $200 million. In other words, our liabilities exceed our assets. By contrast, the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, showed our net worth was a positive $1.3 billion, so the logical question would be, what happened to give us a variance to the tune of $1.5 billion?

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Why we need Tech Ed

There’s a lot on the table for technical education in Vermont.

The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development brought H.533 to the floor, a bill with a strong focus on adult technical education and adult recruitment and a great compliment to year's Act 128 (which focused largely, though not exclusively, on school-aged Vermonters). Among other things, this bill allocates funds to training that results in industry-recognized certification or a registered apprenticeship, provides training for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and explores the creation of a fully integrated adult career and technical education system. The bill also takes steps to face recruitment and relocation needs, seeks to address licensing barriers for medical professionals, and works to connect military families with Vermont jobs.

Senate Committee on Education worked on 19-1201, which passed out of committee with a vote of 5-0-1, that would require Vermont Technical College to create a pilot program for delivering degrees through career technical education centers around the state. The stated goal of the legislation is to have 70% of Vermont’s workforce holding some form of post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025. The bill also asks AOE to assist with the alignment of degree programs with workforce priority needs.

The House Committee on Education brought forward H.516, which would require schools to expose students to skilled labor training opportunities as early as 5th grade, promoting the idea that the trades can offer the right person just as much success, if not more, than a college education. 

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Ethics in Vermont are Under Threat

Ethics in Vermont are under threat. The House Committee on Government Operations is considering a draft bill that will undermine accountability, transparency, and efficacy of ethics standards for Vermont State Officials. There is a hearing and possible vote by the Committee scheduled for Friday.

The draft committee bill proposes the following changes to current law -

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A Brief Introduction to Education Finance

Trying to understand how Vermont pays for its schools can be a difficult task. This Joint Fiscal Office paper from Chloe Wexler, Fiscal Data Analyst, and Mark Perrault, Senior Fiscal Analyst does a great job breaking down the basics. 

Click here to read the paper. 

Takeaways from the report:

  1. Vermont has a unique education finance system – a statewide funding formula coupled with local property tax administration.
  2. School boards set budgets and submit them to voters for their approval, maintaining local control over education spending.
  3. The Legislature sets education property tax rates annually at the level necessary to fund voter-approved school budgets.
  4. To comply with the Brigham decision, the homestead property tax rate is a function of district per-pupil spending rather than property wealth.
  5. The tax bills of homeowners who are eligible for a property tax adjustment also vary in proportion to per-pupil spending.
  6. Since the enactment of Act 68, the nonresidential tax rate has been uniform statewide – the tax rate is not directly related to per-pupil spending.

Commentary: Case Closed

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Don Keelan, a retired certified public accountant and resident of Arlington. The piece first appeared in the Bennington Banner.

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