Effort begins to re-evaluate education financing in Vermont

first_imgby Hilary Niles vtdigger.org It’s time to re-evaluate Vermont’s education financing system and test its fairness to both students and taxpayers. That was the consensus at an education symposium convened Tuesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature.The event kicked off what’s intended to be a session-long discussion of the state’s school funding formula, with the aim of understanding how it’s working in the current economic and educational environment ‘ and whether it could be improved.The current funding formula was created in 1997 with the passage of Act 60, and amended in 2003 with Act 68. Now all of the laws’ complex parts and funding mechanisms, everything from per-pupil costs and outcomes to property tax structures and income sensitivity, are on the table.Held at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, the symposium included a six-member panel discussion and three breakout sessions for wide-ranging conversations. It was organized as a response to growing complaints about high property tax rates and persistent concerns about educational outcomes ‘ particularly for schoolchildren from the state’s poorest districts.Lawrence Picus. Hilary Niles/VTDPanel moderator Lawrence Picus, author of a 2012 report on the state’s education finance system,’ will prepare a briefing paper for the administration and Legislature by the end of January. The follow-up will summarize and expand upon Tuesday’s discussion.The six-member panel of experts from Vermont and around the country weighed in against a backdrop of divergent assumptions: that rising property taxes are unpopular compared to an income-based system, for example, or that the housing market collapse and lowered property valuations that resulted from the recession spurred only a temporary spike in property tax rates that could very well come back down.Along with those issues, panelists looked at a separate issue at play in Vermont: ever-rising rates of growth in school budgets.Vermont’s per-pupil cost of education alternately takes first or second place as highest in the nation, according to Daphne Kenyon, public policy consultant and a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, MA.The state’s achievement scores don’t illustrate a return on that investment, Kenyon said, when compared to neighboring states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which spend less on average per student.If one takeaway could be gleaned from the discussion, it came from those outside Vermont: The system here works well, they said. Yes, it’s 17 years old and likely needs to be updated. But it’s got ‘good bones,’ as Picus put it. Adjustments may be called for, but not an outright replacement.’ Patrick Walsh, an economics professor at St. Michael’s College, also challenged the conventional wisdom that more spending results in better outcomes ‘ though he acknowledged that correlation can vary depending on which population of students is studied. Extra money directed to disadvantaged kids tends to make a bigger difference than a boost for better-off schools, for example.Economist Richard Heaps suggested at the annual Vermont Economic Outlook Conference (see www.vteconomy.com(link is external)) held January 10 that Act60/68 (which created the statewide property tax to fund public education) might have to be altered or over-turned because of the gap between increasing spending and declining tax base.But the impact of school spending is just one assumption that should be tested, according to both Shumlin and several panelists.‘Do we have a challenge with income sensitivity driving school spending beyond sustainable rates?’ Shumlin asked in his opening remarks. (Under Vermont’s education finance formula, the state uses income sensitivity to reduce property tax burdens for households that earn below a certain threshold.) Shumlin said some people believe passionately that tax reductions from income sensitivity shield too many people from the true cost of their votes on school budgets. But he wonders if that theory is just a myth.About two-thirds of Vermont households qualify for income sensitivity reductions that apply to their property tax bills. Several panelists suggested that school budgets likely would be lower if more taxpayers had more ‘skin in the game.’The need for more and better data to answer such questions was a running theme in the breakout sessions. A desire for ‘data-driven decisions’ was a mantra that applied to both the base education cost per pupil ‘ is it set correctly? ‘ as well as the quest for what the ideal class size and school district size is. That has long been a key issue in this small rural state with small schools.If one takeaway could be gleaned from the discussion, it came from those outside Vermont: The system here works well, they said. Yes, it’s 17 years old and likely needs to be updated. But it’s got ‘good bones,’ as Picus put it. Adjustments may be called for, but not an outright replacement.Aside from adjusting income sensitivity, one component of the formula that may be tweaked is the ‘high-spending threshold’ that kicks in as a method of moderating school budget increases. Designed to curb school spending, the function spikes tax rates if a school budget exceeds a certain level of annual increase.‘It seems like that threshold is not really doing its job (of preventing) runaway spending,’ Walsh said.Tom Downes, associate professor of economics at Tufts University, suggested reclassifying taxpayers beyond just residential and non-residential groups as is done under current law. Vermont could consider different tax rates for residential, commercial, industrial and ‘everybody else,’ he said, the latter category being a potentially profitable way of raising taxes on out-of-state homeowners.Introducing multiple thresholds for income sensitivity, which would taper tax implications could also help, several panelists said. Stepping up the tax burden more gradually may dissuade people from manipulating their household income from year to year to avoid a big bump in their tax bills.Assessing a property owner’s ability to pay taxes by a more accurate measure of income may also be a good strategy, suggested Michael Wolkoff, deputy chair of the economics department at the University of Rochester.Shumlin, Picus and several panelists cautioned that, whatever aspect of the school financing system may be altered, some people will be unhappy.But the fundamental goal, House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, underscored, is to achieve both equity in financial obligations and equal access to education for all schoolchildren in the state. Those two principles cannot be separated, he said.last_img read more

A great celebration of the 2400th anniversary of the founding of the Old Town

first_imgThis year, the Old Town on the island of Hvar marks an exceptional anniversary – 2400 years since the founding of the town and just as many traditions of urban living on the sunniest island in the Adriatic. The Old Town of the 21st century is a small tourist town whose main feature is a layered history that is chained by many of its ingredients in a universal, especially Mediterranean area. The great anniversary marked this year is a confirmation of centuries of continuity, but also a pledge of the future.”The celebration of the 2400th anniversary of the founding of the Old Town was accompanied by many cultural, sports and entertainment events. Whether you are a fan of klapa songs or more inclined to sports activities in the coming months you will be able to find something for yourself in the Old Town. ” they point out from the Tourist Board of the town of Stari Grad and come as it isThe whole of 2016 is dedicated to this anniversary, but a central celebration will take place from 7 to 11 September and numerous events are planned for it, such as the festival of the sea and sailors Days in the Bay, a symposium on the theme of anniversaries, lectures, workshops, gastronomic events, concerts and exhibitions.Klapa singing, which has been on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage since 2012, is also a part of the life of the islanders, so don’t be surprised if you hear the klapa singing in front of a cafe or on the waterfront for no particular reason. Singing in a klapa is a way of life in the city, thanks to the Faro canadaturs who invite you to a concert Evening from the canton, meeting of island klapa singers, May 28 in the Old Town on St. Stephen’s Square starting at 20:30. And how Croatian city music This year, the Old Town is celebrating its 140th anniversary, and they have prepared a cycle of concerts that will take place throughout the summer with surprise guests.The first concert will be held on June 08 on Škor Square, starting at 20:30, and the Hvar City Music will perform, while on June 14, the guests will arrive klapa Cambi from Split who will hold a concert on Škor Square starting at 21:00. If you are a recreational cyclist or even a professional cyclist, visit Stari Grad on June 11 and 12 when a bicycle race will take place. By bike through the heritage. The race is run through Starogradsko polje, which has been under the protection of UNESCO and the surrounding villages since 2008. Of course, nothing without a good party, so after the announcement of the winner of this year’s race, you will be entertained by a group Gustafi on Tvrdalj Square at 22:00. Traditionally, Old Town caterers invite you to a gastronomic event on June 13th On Bon Pro and in honor of the 2400th anniversary of the founding of the Old Town will prepare dishes from ancient cuisine.You can follow the entire program of the event on the official one website manifestations.last_img read more

Australia: St George Ready to Withstand Next Flood

first_imgThe completion of St George’s new levee system will provide a more certain future for its residents.Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli said the town had suffered three major floods in the past five years.The 2.6 kilometre block wall and earthen embankment levee is designed to withstand a flood even higher than the 2012 event which damaged 50 houses and the Warrawee Aged Care facility, which had been evacuated three times in three years.Stage One of the levee protects homes and the aged care facility at the southern and northern ends of the town, while the Stage Two block wall joins the levees in the middle to protect the main part of town.Costing $5.6 million, the levee was funded through State and Federal funding and a partnership between the Balonne Shire Council and the Churches of Christ, owners of the Warrawee Aged Care facility.[mappress]Press Release, March 12, 2014last_img read more