Message from Montpelier: Legislative Report from Rep. Dennis Devereux

Legislative Report from Rep. Dennis Devereux
for Ludlow, Mount Holly, and Plymouth

The heavy load placed upon our Committee on Government Operations was apparent the first week in Montpelier. Not only did we start making changes to legislative districts, but also realized that we would be required to quickly pass language to address the December court determination that keeps property tax adjustment payments from being a public record. The Town of Manchester had won its appeal to keep the information private. The bill (H.515) would hold harmless those responsible for disclosing property tax adjustment information prior to January 12, 2012. There is still an ongoing discussion in the Ways and Means Committee on how our municipal officials will provide this needed information in the future.

After weeks of discussing the population shifts during the last ten years, it was apparent that Burlington would indeed get its tenth representative. This would force our committee to consolidate a district in the southern part of the state. Several plans and maps were offered after the decision that a district in Rutland County would be consolidated. I presented a final map to the committee that would not divide any town, dismantle an existing district, nor place any incumbents against each other in a single-member district in the county. This was not acceptable, though it did seem to some the more fair option. The final map voted out of the committee separates the present district of Wallingford, Shrewsbury, and Tinmouth into three different directions, and removes some people from the Town of Wells to ensure that the numbers meet our criteria. The new proposed district would be Ludlow, Mount Holly, and Shrewsbury. The bill has now moved to the Senate, where they are working to adjust the state senate districts.

When Act 153 passed two years ago, it had my support because it started the discussion about how we might reduce the number of supervisory union offices to save money. I think many of us also saw it as a chance to improve some opportunities for students. We constantly hear that there are too many superintendents in our state, and teachers mention there is too much administration. It became apparent during the school board supervisory planning meetings that a real concern is whether a newly created district board could have the power to close a school within the district. Much of the discussion I heard was about not having enough of an opportunity to make comments because it was moving too quickly, and the transition costs to implement the merger. My concerns about this cost were addressed in the bill (H.753), which provides reimbursement for consulting services at each step of the process. It would provide a grant of $150,000, less the previously paid services, to help with the incurred cost of combining offices.

With the shifting of some services to the supervisory union level, I understand the budgets would likely increase. I approached some members of the Education Committee that I would be offering an amendment to allow a vote on supervisory Union budgets by Australian ballot for towns that vote in that manner. By the time you read this article, the bill should be over to the Senate, and hopefully they will not change its intent.

Please contact me at ddevereux@leg.state.vt.us, or with a message at 800-322-5616 or 802-259-2460.

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