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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Walters: Scott Digs In on School Funding Plan

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 7:49 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Reporters at Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's press conference Thursday might as well have been tossing pebbles at a brick wall. The governor was immovable in the face of tough questioning about his school funding plan, the cold shoulder it's received from the legislature and the apparent mistakes in the plan's numbers. He called for consensus and "coming to the table," but he insisted that any compromise would have to be "within the plan."

He asserted that the legislature is on track to raise taxes by as much as $83 million, including a projected $58 million increase in property taxes. "This approach is not acceptable to me," he said.

The legislature, in truth, is doing nothing to enact the property tax increase. That was the result of voters approving more than 95 percent of school budgets on Town Meeting Day. Those votes determined the property tax rate, which by law must be set to provide enough money for all those local budgets.

Scott dismissed the overwhelming approval of school budgets, arguing that people don't realize the property tax consequences of their votes.

"I don’t believe voters went into the booth and considered that their property taxes were going to increase next year and voted for their budgets," he said. "I just don’t believe that."

When pressed on whether voters might realize that approving higher budgets would mean higher taxes, he stuck to his guns. "I just don’t think that people do that kind of math," he said.

This, despite the fact that state law requires school ballots to clearly indicate the full dollar amount of the budget, the per-pupil amount, whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous year's and by what percentage. Voters actually have quite a bit of information.

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Montpeculiar: Reception Honors Statehouse Sculptor and Gardeners

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 2:59 PM

Paul Calter, right, with his sculpture "Trillium" as  state curator David Schütz looks on. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Paul Calter, right, with his sculpture "Trillium" as state curator David Schütz looks on.
A group of gardeners and art aficionados gathered Wednesday afternoon to celebrate one of Montpelier's hidden gems — a garden of native Vermont plants behind the Statehouse, and a recently installed sculpture that serves as its focal point.

The garden takes advantage of the dramatic topography provided by the base of Hubbard Hill, which rises directly behind the Statehouse. "This garden really, really helps make good policy in Vermont," said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero), whose office windows look out on the garden. "It’s a huge gift, to have this right in our backyard."

The sculpture,"Trillium," was created by Randolph artist and mathematician Paul Calter, who wielded three wooden hoops to explain how the design came to be.

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Media Note: Vermont Life Magazine to Cease Publishing

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 1:26 PM

The most recent cover - VERMONT LIFE
  • Vermont Life
  • The most recent cover
Vermont Life magazine will publish for the last time next week, Gov. Phil Scott’s administration announced Thursday. The closure of the financially troubled state-run magazine comes after administration officials earlier this year said that the operation was running "in the black" and chipping away at its $3.5 million debt.

Michael Schirling, the secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said the magazine’s finances were trending in the right direction until this spring. Schirling said the publication’s problems were similar to those faced by privately owned newspapers and magazines.

“Advertising revenue and subscription rates,” Schirling said. “We haven’t been able to recover advertisers from what was an upturn for several quarters. We started to see a downturn earlier this year, but we expected that to turn back to a more positive number, and we were just unable to do that.”

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