PAI: Just say no to election-year temptation

first_imgPublic Assets Institute On opening day of the 2016 legislative session, House Speaker Shap Smith had this advice for his colleagues: “There will be those who suggest that because this is an election year, that we will focus on politics rather than the people’s business. I reject that premise. I know each and every one of you and know that you are here because you believe that we can help make Vermont a better place.” A good way for legislators to heed the speaker’s suggestion would be to resist the temptation to spend all of the Education Fund surplus just to hold down taxes in an election year. It will come back to bite their constituents next year.At first blush it might seem like a good idea: it is taxpayers’ money after all. But using all of the surplus will be one-time relief that will be have to be made up the following year. In fiscal 2018, voters will see a double tax increase: they will have to make up the amount covered by the surplus in fiscal 2017—currently projected at about $20 million—plus whatever normal increase occurs in fiscal 2018.Vermont’s school funding system is based on the idea that all students have equal access to the educational resources of the state, so our statewide tax base provides all communities with equal capacity to raise education funds.To that end, the Legislature sets a homestead education tax yield that applies to every community: the amount per pupil to be generated for each $1.00 on the homestead property tax rate or 2.0 percent of household income for Vermont resident homeowners who qualify to pay an income-based school tax.Local communities determine how much they want to spend per pupil, and their tax rates vary up or down accordingly using the yield amount as the base. For example, if the homestead property tax yield was set at $8,000 per pupil, a district that voted to spend $16,000 per pupil would have a $2.00 homestead tax rate. A district spending $12,000 would have a rate of $1.50.The Legislature is currently considering a yield of $9701 per pupil, which represents a slight tax cut from this year—about 0.5 percent. But to achieve that yield, the Legislature is proposing to use all of the surplus anticipated for the Education Fund.At the same time that the Legislature is proposing to spend down its Education Fund surplus, many districts around the state are depleting their own reserves and surpluses to avoid being penalized by the Legislature for increasing their budgets too much next year. (Any spending increase covered with surplus funds doesn’t count toward the penalties.)A better approach than using the surplus all at once would be to develop a long-range plan, one that projects the ups and downs that are likely to occur with Education Fund revenues. Any surpluses could be used to stabilize the education tax rates, rather than amplify the peaks and valleys.Source: Public Assets Institute, Montpelier. publicassets.org(link is external)last_img read more

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City View: James Whitmore

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Hilcorp Updates CIRCAC On Seismic Testing In Cook Inlet

first_imgHilcorp external affairs manager Lori Nelson: “Hilcorp has experienced delays in the permitting process, in part due to the government shutdown, required to begin our seismic survey this April.  We understand the waters of lower Cook Inlet are a shared resource.  Therefore, our team has made the decision to delay the survey until after the height of fishing and tourist season.” According to a release from CIRCAC, Hilcorp submitted its presentation–including an update on their Cook Inlet operations, seismic testing and the decommissioning of the Drift River Oil Terminal–in writing. Nelson: “We are actively engaged in discussions with our contractor to delay the survey.  Our commitment to keep the community’s interests and concerns at the forefront will continue as we work to revise our schedule and work plan.” According to Nelson these surveys provide the resolution needed for detailed geological evaluation and data resolution for placement of drill rigs or platforms. The release states: “We are proud of the role we played to advance the Cross-Inlet pipeline and Drift River Oil Terminal removal.” The company received a release from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in August of an environmental assessment ‘finding of no significant impact’. The bureau said the seismic survey, roughly 370 square miles, would have negligible effects on marine life and birds. Hilcorp has set up a hotline number for subsistence users to share information on seismic activity and is also hosting daily phone calls with subsistence users and local mariners with information about vessel location and activities. Seismic work is expected to be completed by October 31. The phone number is 907-777-8599. According to the presentation, progress is being made to dismantle the Drift River Oil Terminal. The facility’s pipes and storage containers are now oil-free. The oil in the ground, however, is a long-term Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation remediation clean-up project. The company  is now awaiting an official permit in order to begin the survey. Hilcorp originally planned to begin the survey in April, but delayed the plans until after the summer season. FacebookTwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享The CIRCAC Board of Directors met in Homer on September 6, with a full agenda of presentations from Hilcorp Alaska, LLC, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Tim Robertson from Nuka Research who provided an update on the Pipeline Assessment project. This survey will occur within the lower Cook Inlet, south of the Forelands and west to southwest of Homer. Hilcorp originally planned to start the project in April which would have allowed for completion in early summer. Hilcorp will conduct the seismic survey over 8 lease blocks to determine the location of possible oil and gas prospects during the 2019 open‐water season. Photo courtesy of CIRCAClast_img read more

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