Municipal Ethics - Feb 21-23, 2024

The first witness before the House Government Operation Committee on Wednesday was Carol Parsons (Retired Executive Director, Connecticut Office of State Ethics). She held many positions within Connecticut and Massachusetts Ethics Commissions.

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Education Finance - Feb 23, 2024

On Friday, Jeff Fannon (Executive Director, VT-NEA) joined the Senate Finance Committee. “Too often the conversations around education revolve around money,” he said, blaming the current education challenges on a “shattered societal safety net, a global pandemic, economic upheaval,” and that schools must be “staffed adequately.” He also pointed to school construction and inflation as additional factors.

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Workforce Development Governance (H.707) - Feb 22, 2024

Legislative Counsel reviewed the changes made in H.707 for the House Commerce Committee. The bill makes a number of changes to Vermont’s workforce development system. Since they had reviewed the bill a few weeks ago, the overview focused only on the changes which reflected the Committee’s discussions and the thoughts of Chairman Marcotte.

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Education Finance - Feb 21, 2024

The Joint Fiscal Office reviewed the Education Fund stabilization reserve for the House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday. The reserve is always set at 5% of the prior year’s education spending and is meant to be used if tax revenues miss projections. It also contributes to the bond rating of the state.

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Career and Technical Education (S.304) - Feb 21, 2024

On Wednesday, Legislative Counsel reviewed the Senate Education Committee’s, S.304, dealing with the state's Career and Technical Education programs.

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Act 127 Fix (H.850) - Senate Floor

Act 127 Fix (H.850) - H.850 was taken up on Wednesday with a walk-through from Senator Cummings on behalf of the Senate Finance Committee. She notified Senators that she would “be a little longer than I normally would because this bill is trying to solve confusion as to what was happening out there with property taxes and school spending… and why taxes were being capped and uncapped.”

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Testimony: Education Spending - Feb 21, 2024

I had an opportunity to testify to the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday regarding this year's historic property tax increase. Even though it may not have been new material for the Committee, I thought it was important to cover the basics on what is contributing to the surge in property taxes this year. This is not a new problem, schools have increased spending $900,000,000 over the past decade and are projected to spend up to another $240M this year. We have the second highest cost per student in the country, and lowest student/teacher ratios by a mile. Our problem is spending.

National average student/teacher ratio is 15, Vermont's is 10.8

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It's Okay to Vote No on School Budgets

In February 1997, Vermont’s Supreme Court found “the current system for funding public education in Vermont, with its substantial dependence on local property taxes and resultant wide disparities in revenues available to local school districts” is in violation of the Vermont Constitution. In response, in June 1997, the Vermont Legislature and Governor enacted the Equal Educational Opportunity Act—Act 60— a Vermont law intended to achieve a fair balance of educational spending across school districts independent of the degree of prosperity within each district. Act 60 was followed by Acts 68 and 130, which addressed some imbalances caused by Act 60.  Acts 68 and 130, established a system to pool the state's educational budgetary requirements from across jurisdictions and pay for them, in part, with pooled statewide property taxes.

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Regional Housing Targets - Feb 20, 2024

The House General & Housing Committee returned to a conversation around setting regional housing targets on Tuesday. Maura Collins (Executive Director, Vermont Housing Finance Agency) had comments regarding the Draft 1.1 that the Committee was reviewing. She was very supportive of the “great changes” regarding the Housing Needs Assessment, with one caveat. She pointed to the Building Homes Together Campaign (Chittenden County) which also set a target but also assumed 25% would be “affordable units.” She noted that in some years that program has come close to meeting the targets but fell short of the “affordable” goals.

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BE Home Bill (S.311) - Feb 16, 2024

Chairwoman Ram Hinsdale reminded the Senate Economic Development Committee about the Housing Survey from the HOME Act in order to know “roughly how much housing we are creating through our funding mechanisms.” She preferred to add language to S.311 least referencing a “healthy vacancy rates… about 5% for rental unit vacancy and 23% for home ownership vacancy…”

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