Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Friday, March 19th was cross-over for money committees, so the General Assembly was very busy.
The Senate Education Committee continued to take testimony regarding statewide healthcare benefits for school employees. The committee heard Sue Ceglowski’s testimony and Jay Nichols’ testimony on March 18th. On Friday, March 19th, the Senate Education voted to recommend H.81 as passed by the House. We expect that the bill will be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.
The Senate bill addressing universal school meals, S.100, is scheduled for consideration by the full Senate this week. Late Friday afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted favorably on a strike-all amendment, which removed all appropriations from the bill as well as the language promoting local foods for school meals. The Senate Calendar for Tuesday, March 23 (pages 722-726) provides the version of the bill that passed Senate Appropriations. This version of the bill imposes a new and significant unfunded mandate upon Vermont’s school districts and local taxpayers. In the absence of a state appropriation, school district officials may be compelled to reduce programming for students in order to comply with the state mandate to provide universal meals. There is widespread support for good nutrition for children and the role that schools play in providing meals to students.This unfunded mandate would add substantial new increases to local school spending and impact local tax rates (testimony found here). The joint fiscal office has estimated an annual cost of S.100, at between $24 million and $40 million in new annual local spending. This bill would take effect on July 1, 2021 with a five-year phase-in period. If you have concerns about the unfunded mandate aspect of S.100, please contact your senator (list by SU/SD can be found here).
S.13, addressing the pupil weighting factors, will be read a second time in the Senate with recommendation of amendment by Senator Campion for the Committee on Education and a further amendment recommended by Senator Baruth for the Committee on Appropriations. These amendments address the details of the Task Force.
S.16, an act relating to the creation of the Task Force on School Exclusionary Discipline Reform, passed in the Senate on March 18th.
S.115, the Senate Miscellaneous Education bill, was passed by the Senate on March 18th. As reported last week, this bill addresses libraries, cultural liaisons, and school wellness and menstrual products.
S.114, addressing literacy, will have a third reading in the Senate this week.
H.152, an act relating to education property tax (referred to as the yield bill) is under consideration by the full House. As found in the House calendar (pages 559-562), this bill aims to address four issues:
Sets the uniform nonhomestead property tax rate, the property dollar equivalent yield, and the income dollar equivalent yield for FY2022:
property dollar equivalent yield = $11,317.00
the income dollar equivalent yield = $13,770.00
nonhomestead property for fiscal year 2022 = $1.612 per $100.00 of equalized education property value
Excludes spending on eligible school construction projects from the determination of “excess spending” if the project has received preliminary approval from the Agency of Education.
Provides that no school district’s equalized pupil count shall be less than 96.5% of the actual number of equalized pupils in the school district in the previous year.
Extends eligibility for merger support grants to all school districts including those districts that were not required to merge or were merged by the State Board of Education.
Joint Fiscal Office provided an update to House Ways and Means regarding the Preliminary Education Fund Outlook for FY22 (3/16/2021) and a Fiscal Note (3/18/2021), which provides greater detail on the effects of H.152.
Although the House Ways and Means Committee considered the suspension and review of the statewide finance and financial data management system as additional language in H.152, they decided that there are other options to address that issue, including adding it to the Miscellaneous Education bill (H.86). The House Education Committee reviewed an H.91 amendment proposed by Representative Conlon and wants to hear from school business officials who testified earlier on the bill.
Reallocation of $15 million for the School Indoor Air Quality Grant Program
$3 million for Literacy Training
$500,000 to focus on Student Mental Health
$1 million to address Truancy
$4 million for Afterschool and Summer Programs
$5.5 million to provide Summer Meals (in FY21 and carried forward)
$2.8 million in funding to the AOE to provide technical assistance to schools in their utilization of federal relief funds