Last week was Governor Scott’s State of the State Address, which seemed to be well received be legislators and commentators on both sides of the isle. However, a few things jumped out at me, one of which was the Governor’s hold-the-line stance on statewide property taxes. Historically, this is difficult to promise. Despite having a statewide system, Vermont property taxes are quite complex in how they impact Vermonters’ actual tax bills.
We actually have three statewide tax rates: residential, income-sensitized, and non-residential. Both the residential and income-sensitized rates are applied to a local multiplier (which is determined by a district’s per pupil spending) while non-residential is a flat statewide rate. To make this even more tricky, the local multiplier that effects residential and income-sensitized rates is calculated using a statewide base that is set by the Legislature. Complicated, isn’t it?Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on January 12, 2018. Subscribe!
“It’s a first step. Vermont was one of the last states to enact a state ethics commission, so it’s an important first step to establish it and give it some essential functions.”
-Brian Leven, Executive Director, VT State Ethics CommissionRead more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on December 31, 2017. Subscribe!
What does prosperity mean to you?
For some it may be being able to go on a yearly vacation or purchasing the newest iPhone. For others it may be having enough left over to invest in college savings, or your retirement account. And for some it may mean not worrying that an unexpected car repair could use up what little savings they have, or that they won’t receive harassing calls from bill collectors at all hours of the day and night.Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on December 29, 2017. Subscribe!
What does $2000 mean for your family? Putting off an important dental procedure? Not being able to invest in your child’s college fund or send them to summer camp? Skipping vital home repairs? Not being able to travel to see family and friends? Perhaps it’s having to choose between being able to set the thermostat above 58 all winter, or eat nothing but rice and chicken until the snow thaws.Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on December 28, 2017. Subscribe!
How much more will it cost you to live in our great state next year? Let’s take a look at what happened in 2017.
August: Vermonters receive news that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBS-VT) insurance premiums will rise 9.2%, the largest increase ever. For a standard family silver level plan, this means an increase of nearly $113 per month, or $1,352 per year.Read more
December 28, 2017
I am sure that, like me, you are somewhat relieved in leaving 2017 behind us. The level of political turmoil and uncertainty about big issues like health care and income taxes has been exhausting. However, there may be cause for even more apprehension heading into 2018.Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on December 28, 2017. Subscribe!
Vermont has lost 20,000 students over the past two decades, with little change to the number of teachers, staff and administrators. Governor Scott recently announced Vermonters can expect another property tax increase to the tune of 7 percent or more. New school mergers promise little in the way of savings.
Simply put, our education funding system is pricing Vermonters out of the state and it’s unacceptable.
What is the solution? Decreasing costs is proving complicated and less than effective. Just look at Act 46 as an example, which shows no sign of proving its value.Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on December 16, 2017. Subscribe!
Last month, Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced that property taxes are increasing 9.4 cents in 2018, about a 7 percent increase. The average family with a $200,000 house will see an increase of $188 on their property tax bill. Act 46, the so-called education equality act, has not lived up to its promise to reduce statewide property taxes or reduce overall spending on education in Vermont It’s time to admit this and move on.Read more
Email Blast Sent to Supporters on October 12, 2017. Subscribe!
We were very excited to interview Governor Phil Scott last week about his first nine months in office. We covered a range of topics including an innovative approach to rural economic development called Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative, cleaning up our waterways, his $26 million teachers health care proposal, and we also got is take on an EB-5 special prosecutor.
If you missed the live stream of the interview, you can find this and previous interviews at Vote802.com/watch.Read more
As is our Vermont tradition, we must be innovative with our public education system in order to compete in a 21st century economy.
There is little doubt that Vermont’s K-12 public education system is under stress. Student population has decreased by nearly 20,000 over the past two decades, property taxes are steadily rising, and school districts are struggling to comply with a consolidation mandate intended to shed excess overhead costs.
Half of Vermont’s 250 school districts have fewer than 100 students, many of which are in rural areas of the state. Because Vermont’s property tax system is based on cost per student, slight changes in pupil count can have a dramatic effect on the tax rate in that community. This has created a scenario where rural areas – already seeing population declines – see dramatic increases in property tax rates. These population declines become cyclical as unstable tax rates further deters young families from moving into those communities.
Traditional thinking has evaluated the population decline as something we must match our administrative structure to, essentially “right-sizing” our education system. In other words, we have excess administrative overhead and must reduce it in order to match our level of student enrollment. This approach led to Acts 153, 156, and 46 which have attempted to reduce the administrative overhead of our school systems. Acts 153 and 156 had scant participation from local school districts, (four school districts, Weston, Landgrove, Londonderry, and Peru merged into the Mountain Towns RED). Even Act 46, which is a “mandatory” consolidation effort, has prompted action in less than half of school districts so far.
Right-sizing our education system has proven difficult as it relies heavily on the actions of local communities. Perhaps we are thinking about it in the wrong way. Instead of looking at this challenge as excess overhead, maybe we should think about it as excess capacity. We have seen a student drop of 20% with no similar reduction in school staffing. Which means, theoretically, that we could serve 20,000 more students than we currently do.
Traditional methods of increasing student population include increasing overall population, which takes decades to change. In a flattening world economy we must think more broadly. Many countries around the globe are gaining wealth at a rate approaching that of the United States. This opens up a number of opportunities to look beyond not just the borders of our state, but also the borders of our country for a solution.
Over 80,000 students come into the United States every year from China alone. This is a ten-fold increase from 2008. A rising middle class coupled with explosive economic growth has put American educational opportunities within reach for middle-class Chinese families. Here in Vermont, many independent schools have far more applicants than they could possibly accept from Central Asia. This is nothing new for private schools around the country. The real innovation is that public schools are now beginning to accept international students in similar fashion. Some of these schools are even here in Vermont.
Vermont schools already rank well compared to other states and indeed other countries which would be a useful selling point in attracting international students. Excess capacity in Vermont’s rural schools could easily be met with the rapidly growing demand for access to American educational systems around the globe. Public education systems are just beginning to catch on to international education and Vermont can be on the leading edge of this wave. All of this comes at a time when our K-12 public education system is in dire need of innovation. This could be the spark needed to move us forward.
Budget pressures continue to increase, particularly on our smallest schools, while taxpayers are screaming for relief. Instead of making decisions about how to invest in our children’s future, they are being forced to make decisions about where to pull back. An infusion of international students would diversify our student populations, introduce new revenue, and create more educational opportunities for our Vermont students.
The infrastructure to implement such a plan is already in place; A number of non-profit organizations already recruit students internationally, and the F-01 Visa program is widely used to tuition students to the United States. Implementing a program like this at a statewide level could leverage recruiting and placement in a way that has not yet been done elsewhere. Filling just half of our excess capacity could bring $350 million into the state, rivaling the ski industry for direct economic impact.
Let’s make Vermont an education destination and revolutionize our Pre-K through 12 education system.
Campaign for Vermont Prosperity