Proposal would send a $250 rebate check to Vermont property taxpayers using half of the $90 million Education Fund surplus
Remaining $45 million would be invested in Career and Technical Education to address workforce shortage
Montpelier, Vt. – At his weekly media briefing, Governor Phil Scott called on legislators to support his proposal to return half of the more than $90 million Education Fund surplus to Vermont taxpayers and dedicate the other half to strengthen Vermont’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) system.
The Governor’s tax proposal, if supported by the Legislature, would return about $250 - $275 to Vermont residential property taxpayers through a rebate check, issued this summer.
In support of CTE, the Governor proposes to use the remaining Education Fund surplus to:
- Establish a $15 million fund to create a CTE Construction and Rehabilitation Experiential Learning Program and Revolving Loan Fund, with the purpose of expanding the experiential and educational opportunities for Vermont CTE high school and adult students to work directly on construction projects, including residential housing projects.
- Establish a $28 million competitive grant program for CTE facility and infrastructure upgrades – like expanding classrooms, purchasing equipment or increasing access to programs – directly tied to high-need workforce areas.
- Support the development of just-in-time, rapid deployment training opportunities, and the development of innovative workforce training programs.
More details can be found in the below transcripts or by clicking here to view the press conference.
Governor Scott: Last week, most school districts voted on their budgets for the upcoming school year on Town Meeting Day. And for this year, we’re still looking at a roughly $90 million surplus in the Education Fund, as we forecasted in December.
Property tax rates were set for this year using the best information available at the time, which included a grim projection about the economy due to the pandemic. Fortunately, that projection did not come true, and the numbers show Vermonters actually overpaid on their property taxes. So that means we have more money than needed to meet the budgets that were approved last year.
I should note, this is all in addition to the roughly $400 million schools received in direct federal funding to use for things like air filtration and many other needs.
As Vermonters are well aware, it costs a lot to live in our state, which has exacerbated other challenges we have, like our demographics. And property taxes are a big part of our affordability challenges.
Typically, when you overpay for something, you get some of that money back. That’s why I’ve asked the Legislature to return about $45 million to taxpayers.
To put this simply, if the Legislature agrees with my plan, residential property taxpayers will get a check back for over $250 this summer, which could come in handy considering inflation these days.
This rebate would be in addition to the $50 million tax relief package I’ve proposed which would provide ongoing relief to nearly 25% of Vermont taxpayers, from seniors on social security to working low-income families, those with student loans, nurses, and more.
Now, we know there’s no single policy or one piece of taxpayer relief that will solve our affordability crisis – but it all adds up.
So, when Vermonters give the government more money than it needs, they should get money back.
Because of our workforce shortage, I’m proposing we dedicate the second half of the Education Fund surplus to support Career and Technical Education.
I think most would agree we need to do more to support CTE because they’ve been left behind for quite some time. As I discussed in my State of the State and Budget Address, it’s important our kids know that choosing a career in the trades is lucrative and we need more of them to choose this path. It's no secret we don’t have enough workers, especially in the trades, which makes this a top priority.
Education Secretary French will speak to the specifics of our proposal in a minute, but we have an opportunity to make historic investments in CTE for infrastructure, learning opportunities and workforce training. I’m hopeful we can come to agreement with legislators on this shared goal.
Lastly, a year ago, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan. As we move into the second half of the legislative session, I want to remind lawmakers how important it is to get this right.
We agreed last year to make transformative tangible investments in areas like climate change, housing, water and sewer infrastructure, broadband, and more.
We simply can’t squander this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I hope legislators remember the commitments that were made and use this funding strategically to deliver the best returns and make sure that all 14 counties benefit.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Secretary French.
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Secretary French: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon.
It is projected the Education Fund will have a large surplus this year. The Governor is proposing to return half of that surplus to taxpayers in the form a property tax rebate.
The Governor is proposing the other half of the surplus be invested strategically to expand the capacity of our Career and Technical Centers to address what is probably our greatest challenge as a state: workforce development.
Our CTE centers play a critical role in our education system and in the economic development of our state. Using these one-time surplus funds in a strategic way to expand the capacity of CTE centers can help us meet our current and future workforce needs. Simply put, investing in CTE is an investment in our future.
There is a lot of interest in expanding CTE programming in the legislature this year, and we look forward to working in partnership with legislative leaders to advance this common goal.
To help support these deliberations and the collaboration with legislators, the Governor has put forward recommended strategies in the form of three investment priorities for these one-time surplus funds.
The first priority would be to establish a $15 million fund to create a CTE Construction and Rehabilitation Experiential Learning Program and Revolving Loan Fund, with the purpose of expanding the experiential and educational opportunities for Vermont CTE high school and adult students to work directly on construction projects, including residential housing projects.
This program would improve property values around the state while also teaching high school and adult students critical trades skills. The program would accomplish several goals, including:
- Create community partnerships among CTE centers, housing organizations, government entities and private businesses;
- Beautify communities and rehabilitate underperforming housing and land assets; and
- Expand housing access to Vermonters in communities throughout the state.
The second priority would be to establish a $28 million competitive grant program for CTE facility and infrastructure upgrades, directly tied to high-need workforce areas.
Funds from this grant program could be used for the expansion of CTE classrooms, applied learning spaces or purchasing new equipment to expand program access for additional students. Centers would work with their local advisory boards to identify high-need workforce areas in their regions to guide these investments.
The third priority would be to use $5 million of the Ed Fund surplus in two areas: to support the development of just-in-time, rapid deployment training opportunities, and second, to support the development of innovative workforce training programs.
$4 million of the $5 million would be directed towards the just-in-time training programs to assist CTE students, secondary and adults in mastering the skills for Vermont’s high-need jobs in the trades and in healthcare. Examples could include summer training programs, an extended year of high school as pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship experience, and training boot camps or other intensive training programs.
The remaining $1 million would be available to support innovative ideas in CTE centers to support workforce development needs where there might be a critical need for training at the regional or state level, and where additional funding may be needed to support these programs.
Together, these three proposals represent about a $48M investment in CTE programs and workforce development. Vermont’s workforce needs are, perhaps, our most critical challenge right now, and these strategic investments in CTE can act as a catalyst to support the expansion of the workforce now and into the future.
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To learn more about Governor Scott’s 2022 legislative and budget proposals, visit governor.vermont.gov/FY23Budget.