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Education fund surplus a key topic during Governor Scott’s weekly briefing

May 2021 file photo of Vermont Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott wants to return some $45 million to taxpayers this year.

The Republican began his weekly briefing noting that voters approved most school budgets on Town Meeting Day last Tuesday. He added that last year’s property tax rates were set based on what he called grim pandemic economic forecasts. But Scott says the economy was better than expected and Vermonters ended up overpaying property taxes — leading to a surplus in the state education fund of about $90 million.

“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," Scott said. "If the legislature agrees with my plan residential property taxpayers will get a check back for over $250 this summer.”

Scott wants the other half of the surplus to support Career and Technical Education programs across the state. Education Secretary Daniel French says there are three priorities in how the funds would be invested.

“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," French said. "The second priority would be to establish a $28 million competitive grant fund program for CTE facility and infrastructure upgrades directly tied to high need workforce areas. The third priority would be to use $5 million 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.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine reported that the state is seeing very low COVID-19 hospitalization rates. 87 percent of Vermonters age 5 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine and people have ready access to testing. Therefore he says the agency is updating its public guidance.

“As we’ve already previewed starting Monday, March 14th the decision to wear a mask will be up to each person. Remember it’s still a good idea to keep a mask with you as some places you may choose to go may still encourage or require them," said Levine. "Now also on March 14th we will simplify our isolation and quarantine guidance. If you test positive you will need to stay home and isolate for 5 days. If you are a close contact and not up to date on your vaccines you do not need to quarantine but you should get tested.”

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