Rep. Alison Clarkson’s Legislative Update

10 April 2014

It has taken the Legislature three weeks to complete ‘cross over’ – that period when the bills which have made it through the committee process in the House and the Senate must pass from one body to the other in order to be considered in time to be signed into law by the end of the 2014 session. The House has passed many bills in the last few weeks, including the FY15 Budget, the Revenue and Transportation bills, the Pay Act, Commerce, Human Service, Judiciary and Education bills, all of which now need the Senate’s consideration.

The Education Property Tax bill (H.889) was the last to pass. We were able to reduce the Governor’s proposed tax increases as a result of school budgets coming in at 3% growth rather than the anticipated 3.8%. The bill sets the homestead tax rate at 98 cents (3 cents lower than the $1.01 originally proposed), the non-residential rate at $1.515, and the applicable percentage for income sensitivity at 1.9% of household income. The base education amount is set at $9,382 per pupil. The tax rates we’ve just passed on the House Floor pay the bill for the education budgets voted by Vermonters at Town Meeting. The challenge we still face is how to better align our increasing education costs with a declining public school population.

We were able to reduce the tax rates by adjusting various aspects of current law. Here are some details of the choices we made. The bill:
• Eliminates small school grants beginning in 2019 except for small schools which are geographically challenged. This gives these schools 3 years to plan. Beginning in 2019 the grants will be phased out in thirds through 2021.
• It creates an anchor that ties excess spending increases to inflation from fiscal year 2014 to the present, as opposed to current law which ties the increase to the previous year’s spending. If a district spends above its allowable increase, the additional spending counts twice for the purpose of calculating the district’s tax rate.
• Reduces the percentage of rent that counts as “allocable rent” from 21 percent to 19 percent. There is also a study requiring the Vermont Housing Council to propose programs that provide benefits to renters in Vermont in lieu of the renters’ rebate program.
• Extends the slope of middle-income taxpayers who benefit from income sensitivity by raising the house site value used to calculate income sensitivity adjustments for people over $90,000 in household income from $200,000 to $250,000. This would provide homeowners with some level of income sensitivity up to approximately $120,000 of household income.
• Lowers the total income sensitivity adjustment possible from $8,000 to $6,000 for homeowners under the age of 65. There is no change in the rebate cap for those 65 and older.
• Invests any fiscal surplus equally into thirds to fund the Education Fund, the Rainy Day Fund, and retired teachers’ health care.
• Expresses the intent of the Legislature to transition to an education financing system that relies on an education income tax by 2017.
• Requires the Agency of Education to submit a report to the Legislature on the history, current practices, and impacts of Vermont’s tuition system.

We believe these proposals align with our overall goals to rein in education spending, address ability to pay, and incentivize economies of scale.

I’d like to address the articulated intent to have all resident tax payers pay their statewide education tax by their ability to pay, by income. Currently 2/3’s of Vermonters are income sensitized. Section 23 of H.889 puts in statute the intent of the House Ways and Means Committee to simplify our education financing system and to shift away from over-reliance on the homestead property tax. The concept we will look at includes creation of a significantly lower and flat property tax rate for homesteads, complemented by a progressive education income tax.

Last year, we passed legislation that will give our Joint Fiscal Office access to Federal AGI data through the Vermont Department of Taxes. This change will give Ways and Means the ability to better model different rate scenarios under a new system, so that we can better determine appropriate rates moving forward. There will be winners and losers, as under any new system, and it will be important to have a clear understanding of the real-world ramifications.

Adopting a progressive income tax will eliminate the need for our income sensitivity system and will eliminate the “cliff”, the big difference faced by taxpayers who just miss qualifying for the current sensitivity reductions. Setting a lower and flat property tax rate will eliminate the need for our property tax credit system, the homestead declaration and the household income calculations. As currently envisioned, the statewide education income tax would be administered by the Department of Taxes.

Although the proposal doesn’t directly affect education spending, the hope is that a simpler system will be easier for everyone to understand and will lead to a better informed public. This plan is not set in stone, and I expect there will be many deliberations to be had. Any and all ideas are welcome as we move ahead.

I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature, and the bills which have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website: www.leg.state.vt.us

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Upcoming services at Tyson Church

From Margo Marrone

Tyson Congregational Church invites everyone join us on Maundy Thursday, 4/17 at 6:00 PM. As Jesus’ disciples gathered with Him before His betrayal, we share a meal together, then we have a short service, including Communion. This is a time to recall the events of Holy Week.

On Easter, 4/20 at 10:30 AM, we celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Our wooden cross is festooned in bright colored flowers, which are distributed at the end of our service. All are welcome to attend & our sanctuary is handicapped accessible. For more information, our church phone number is 228-4770 or you may call Pastor Margo Marrone at 228-5114.

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Margo Marrone’s Plymouth Report

Republished with permission from The Vermont Standard

4/13/14

Attended a very interesting presentation by Pete Fellows (TRORC) the other evening, when he explained some of the recent studies & work being done to mitigate future flooding as occurred in the wake of “Irene”. He made a comment that was a surprise to me about the function of rivers not merely being to move water, but to move sediment. A lot of that happened around here – that’s for sure! I remember hearing boulders tumbling down our little brook on Dublin Rd.

Grants have been obtained & studies done & will continue to be pursued in order to see how best to prepare for any future uncontrolled flooding. It is important to make sure the water has some place to go – flood plains seem to hold the key – places where water can go without degrading river banks & running wild into dwellings & across roadways.

Although this presentation was noted for the Planning Commission meeting, not many folks attended. I wonder if there is interest in learning more of the specifics, which I am not going to detail here, perhaps another meeting might be arranged & publicized.

A couple of birthdays coming up – Cheryl Bishop on 4/13 & Kathy Lynds on 4/29. Another anniversary for Dot & Roger Pingree on 4/26. Congratulations to one & all! I will gladly include these special dates if you let me know about them…..

For Maundy Thursday, Tyson Church will have a light supper at 6:00 PM, followed by a service to commemorate the events of Holy Week. Everyone is welcome to join us.

On a different note, Kathy Tuttle passed away on 4/8. For those of you who didn’t know her, she was a delightful lady, almost 90 years old. As her church family, we will be honoring her during our 5/11 Morning Worship Service at 10:30. We will be sharing fond memories & encourage those in the community to join us on that day.

We will definitely miss Kathy at Tyson Church. She loved the old, familiar hymns & we will be thinking of her as we sing them for Easter (4/20). We are planning to have some simple instruments on hand & are hoping to have youngsters use them during our service. Kathy loved to see the children & teens in church! Please consider attending our 10:30 AM Easter Celebration. Also all are welcome to take flowers home from the Cross that we decorate with a lovely perfusion of spring colors.

Just a reminder that our Reach Out Luncheon (jointly sponsored by Tyson Church & Tyson Ladies Aid) will happen a week later this month. It will be held at 11:00 on 4/24 in the downstairs community room at the church. Our speaker will be Linda Tucker talking about the Black River Academy Museum.

Speaking historically, don’t forget the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Plymouth Historical Society which includes the tour of various local sites. It will begin at the Historical Society Room at the Community Center & proceed around town, culminating with a tea at the Echo Lake Inn.. Contact Betsy Tonkin at (tbone6547@aol.com or 672-3179) by April 24th to let them know of your interest, so transportation can be arranged!

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Tyson Ladies’ Aid Bake Sale Friday, 4/18

From Sally Scarp

The Tyson Ladies’ Aid Association will hold its annual Easter Pie & Bake Sale at the Shaw’s shopping plaza in Ludlow, Vermont on Good Friday, April 18th, 2014 from 10 a.m. to noon. Home made pies will be featured among a wide array of cakes, cookies, muffins and breads.

“This is an event that I look forward to every year” said Marge Harlow a member for over 50 years. “We have some amazing ladies who are very proud of their home baked goods and the ingredients they use.”

The Tyson Ladies’ Aid Association was founded in 1880 to raise funds to bring a church to Tyson. In 1887, the Ladies had purchased the Tyson Iron Works office and established the Tyson Library at that site. After a period of inactivity, they reorganized in 1910 and have operated continuously since then, using money raised to support the library, fund scholarships and benefit the local community.

 

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Margo Marrone’s Plymouth Report

Republished with permission from The Vermont Standard

4/6/14

A reminder about the Family Day happenings at the Notch on 4/12 from noon – 4:00 PM. The special “Hats” program, hands-on activities & the interactive exhibit More Than Two Words will provide a fun-filled afternoon!

Please note these services at Tyson Church. Palm Sunday is 4/13 & we will be distributing & waving palms at our 10:30 Worship Service. For Holy Week, we will have our Maundy Thursday supper & service, starting at 6:00 PM. Our Easter celebration, 4/20 will include our flower-laden cross, from which folks may take these lovely symbols of new life home at the end of the service. All are welcome.

Mark your calendar for Sunday, 5/4 for the Historical Society tour of some very interesting historical sites around town that will culminate with a tea at the Echo Lake Inn. To assist with planning for transportation, which will be arranged from the Community Center, please contact Betsy Tonkin at (tbone6547 or 672-3179) by April 24th.

At our Tyson Ladies Aid meeting last week, Easter plants were distributed to be taken to various people in the community. Don’t forget the Bake Sale at the Shaws shopping Center in Ludlow on 4/18. It begins at 9:00 AM & even though there are lots of yummy home-baked goodies, folks lineup early to purchase them! All of the fundraisers go to provide financial or other help within our area. Decisions are currently being made about our $1000 scholarships to both Black River High School & Woodstock Union High School for graduating senior continuing with their education.

Terry Bascom is still seeking participants for the Summer Garden program at the Plymouth Schoolhouse. It is open to all ages & can be especially fun for youngsters, whose parents want a space to teach gardening skills. Non-genetically modified seeds will be provided & organic methods will be utilized for the 2’x 25‘ plots. What a great opportunity!

Condolences to the family of Robert Earle who passed away 3/29. There was a very nice obituary in the Standard last week. Also, to the family of Henry Tanzer, who formerly live on the Kingdom Rd, but who had more recently lived in Cavendish.

Last, but certainly not least – Happy Birthday to Liza Ward on 4/12!

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Coolidge Historic Site Family-Friendly Activity Day

Coolidge in HatThis Saturday (April 12) the Coolidge Homestead will host a family day from noon to 4 pm, featuring hats. On display will be some of the Homestead’s collection of hats worn by Calvin and Grace.

Enjoy an afternoon of activities, including:

12-2 pm: Activities in the classroom, including making a handmade diary, and trying out a yoke.

2 pm: Presentation on hats.

All afternoon: explore historic Plymouth Notch by participating in the Coolidge Quest activity.

Wear your own favorite historical hat!

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River study update at Planning Commission mtg. on 4/8

From Pete Fellows
(Contact: pfellows@trorc.org; http://www.trorc.org)

The third agenda item on the Planning Commission meeting on 4/8 (approx 7:30pm) will be an update of the river study work that was completed this past fall as well as the future restoration projects that are planned.

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