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ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007-2008

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NO. 82.  AN ACT RELATING TO EDUCATION QUALITY AND COST CONTROL.

(H.526)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

* * * Findings * * *

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

(a)  Vermonters expect excellence from their schools and are justifiably proud of the state’s system of public education.

(b)  Vermont has demonstrated a commitment to equity in public school financing.  Nevertheless, the state cannot sustain public school spending at its present rate of growth. 

(c)  The general assembly acknowledges the commitment of school boards to managing costs under difficult circumstances.

(d)  The effect that a school funding system has on taxes should be more transparent.

(e)  It is important both to understand what Vermonters expect of their schools (including the expectations that are beyond the provision of traditional academic subjects) and to quantify the cost drivers that are causing increases in school budgets.  It is equally crucial to identify ways for schools to deliver these services more effectively. 


* * * Education Funding; Cost Containment; Income Sensitivity * * *

* * * $8,000.00 Cap of Property Tax Adjustments * * *

Sec. 2.  32 V.S.A. § 6067 is amended to read:

§ 6067.  CREDIT LIMITATIONS

Only one individual per household per taxable year shall be entitled to a benefit under this chapter. An individual who received a homestead exemption or adjustment with respect to property taxes assessed by another state for the taxable year shall not be entitled to receive an adjustment under this chapter. No taxpayer shall receive total adjustments under this chapter in excess of $10,000.00 $8,000.00 related to any one property tax year.

Sec. 3.  EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 2 of this act ($8,000.00 cap on property tax adjustment) shall apply to claims filed in 2008 and after.

* * * FY08 Education Property Tax Rates * * *

Sec. 4.  Sec. 1(a) of No. 17 of the Acts of 2007 is amended to read:

(a)  For fiscal year 2008 only, the education property tax imposed under subsection 5402(a) of Title 32 shall be reduced from the rate of $1.59 and $1.10 and shall instead be at the following rates:

(1)  the tax rate for nonresidential property shall be $1.38 $1.36 per $100.00; and

(2)  the tax rate for homestead property shall be $0.89 $0.87 multiplied by the district spending adjustment for the municipality, per $100.00;

of equalized education property value as most recently determined under section 5405 of Title 32.

* * * Education Spending/ Divided Question for Voters * * *

Sec. 5.  16 V.S.A. § 563 is amended to read:

§ 563.  POWERS OF SCHOOL BOARDS; FORM OF VOTE IF BUDGET EXCEEDS BENCHMARK AND DISTRICT SPENDING IS ABOVE AVERAGE

The school board of a school district, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law:

* * *

(11)(A)  Shall prepare and distribute annually a proposed budget for the next school year according to such major categories as may from time to time be prescribed by the commissioner. 

(B)  If the proposed budget contains education spending in excess of the Maximum Inflation Amount, and the district's education spending per equalized pupil in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed was in excess of the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil in that same fiscal year, as determined by the commissioner of education, then in lieu of any other statutory or charter form of budget adoption or budget vote, the board shall present the budget to the voters by means of a divided question, in the form of vote provided in subdivision (ii) of this subsection.

(i)  "Maximum Inflation Amount" in this section means:

(I)  the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil, as defined in subdivision 4001(6) of this title, in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed, as determined by the commissioner of education, multiplied by the New England Economic Project Cumulative Price Index percentage change, as of November 15 preceding distribution of the proposed budget, for state and local government purchases of goods and services for the fiscal year for which the budget is proposed, plus one percentage point; plus the district's education spending per equalized pupil in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed, as determined by the commissioner of education;

(II)  multiplied by the higher of the following amounts as determined by the commissioner of education:

(aa)  the district's equalized pupil count in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the budget is proposed; or

(bb)  the district's equalized pupil count in the fiscal year for which the budget is proposed.

(ii)  Form of vote.

"School Budget Question #1:

Shall the voters of the         School District approve a total budget in             the amount of [$                 ], which includes the Maximum Inflation          Amount of education spending?

"School Budget Question #2:

If Question #1 is approved, shall the voters of the

School District also approve additional education spending of [$             ]?"

(C)  At a school district's annual meeting, the electorate may vote to provide notice of availability of the school budget required by this subdivision to the electorate in lieu of distributing the budget.  If the electorate of the school district votes to provide notice of availability, it must specify how notice of availability shall be given, and such notice of availability shall be provided to the electorate at least 30 days before the district's annual meeting. The proposed budget shall be prepared and distributed at least ten days before a sum of money is voted on by the electorate.  Any proposed budget shall show the following information in a format prescribed by the commissioner of education:

(A)(i)  all revenues from all sources and expenses, including as separate items any assessment for a union school district or a supervisory union of which it is a member, and any tuition to be paid to a technical center;

(B)(ii)  the specific amount of any deficit incurred in the most recently closed fiscal year and how the deficit was or will be remedied;

(C)(iii)  the anticipated homestead tax rate and the percentage of household income used to determine income sensitivity in the district as a result of passage of the budget; including those portions of the tax rate attributable to the union school and supervisory union assessments; and

(D)(iv)  in the case of a school district: (1)(a) other than a union school district, the definition of "education spending," the number of pupils and number of equalized pupils in the school district, and the district's education spending per equalized pupil in the proposed budget and in each of the prior three years; or (2)(b) in the case of a union school district, the amount of the assessment to each of the member districts and the amount of the assessments per equalized pupil in the proposed budget and for the past three years.

* * *

Sec. 6.  EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 5 of this act (form of vote if budget exceeds the maximum inflation amount) shall apply to budgets for fiscal years 2010 (school year 2009–2010) through 2014 (school year 2013–2014) only.


* * * Weighted Membership * * *

Sec. 7.  16 V.S.A. § 4010(c) is amended to read:

(c)  The commissioner shall determine the weighted long-term membership for each school district using the long-term membership from subsection (b) of this section and the following weights for each class:

Grade Level Weight

Elementary 1.0

Secondary 1.25 1.13

Sec. 8.  16 V.S.A. § 4010(h) is added to read:

(h)  The commissioner shall evaluate the accuracy of the weights established in subsection (c) of this section and, at the beginning of each biennium, shall propose to the house and senate committees on education whether the weights should stay the same or be adjusted.

Sec. 9.  EFFECTIVE DATE

(a)  Sec. 7 shall take effect on July 1, 2007 so that the equalized pupil count used in fiscal year 2009 will reflect the new secondary weight of 1.13.

(b)  The commissioner shall make the first evaluation and proposal required by Sec. 8 on or before January 15, 2009.


* * * Fiscal Review of Special Education Spending * * *

Sec. 10.  16 V.S.A. § 2974 is amended to read:   

§ 2974.  SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM; FISCAL REVIEW PANEL

(a)  Annually, the commissioner shall report on to the state board regarding:

(1)  special education expenditures by school districts;

(2)  the rate of growth or decrease in special education costs, including the identity of high and low spending districts;

(3)  outcomes for special education students;

(4)  the availability of special education staff;

(5)  the consistency of special education program implementation statewide; and

(6)  the status of the education support systems in school districts; and

(7)  a statewide summary of the special education student count, including:

(A)  the percentage of the total average daily membership represented by special education students statewide and by school district;

(B)  the percentage of special education students by disability category; and

(C)  the percentage of special education students by in‑district placement, day placement, and residential placement.

(b)  The commissioner shall review high spending districts to determine The commissioner’s report shall include the following data for both high and low spending districts:

(1)  costs could be decreased while still providing needed special education services;

(2)  the district made reasonable efforts to provide, purchase, or contract for goods or services that are the most reasonably priced yet appropriate for its students;

(3)  the district reported special education expenditures appropriately; and

(4)  all expenditures identified as special education expenditures were properly attributed to eligible students and the services for which the expenditures were made were included in the students’ individualized education plans

(1)  each district’s special education staff‑to‑child count ratios as compared to the state average, including a breakdown of ratios by staffing categories;

(2)  each district’s percentage of students in day programs and residential placements as compared to the state average of students in those placements and information about the categories of disabilities for the students in such placements;

(3)  whether the district was in compliance with section 2901 of this title;

(4)  any unusual community characteristics in each district relevant to special education placements;

(5)  a review of high and low spending districts’ special education student count patterns over time;

(6)  a review of the district’s compliance with federal and state requirements to provide a free, appropriate public education to eligible students; and

(7)  any other factors affecting its spending.

(c)  The commissioner shall review low spending districts to determine the reasons for their spending patterns and whether those districts used cost‑effective strategies appropriate to replicate in other districts.

(d)  For the purposes of this section, a “high spending district” is a school district that, in the previous school year, spent at least 20 percent more than the statewide average of special education eligible costs per average daily membership.  Also for the purposes of this section, a “low spending district” is a school district that, in the previous school year, spent no more than 80 percent of the statewide average of special education eligible costs per average daily membership.

(e)  For the purpose of advising the commissioner and providing technical assistance to school districts, the state board shall appoint a fiscal review panel of seven people who have expertise in the areas of data collection and finance, and in the fields of special education, business or health and human services.  The panel, at the request of a district school board, shall work with the department of education to review spending patterns and provision of special education services in the district and provide advice to the school board and staff concerning cost control mechanisms and cost‑effective practices.  In addition, the panel shall make recommendations on what types of data to collect for purposes of the annual report required under subsection (a) of this section, and how the data should be analyzed.  The commissioner and department staff shall assist the high spending districts, who have been identified in subsection (a) of this section and have not presented an explanation for their spending that is satisfactory to the commissioner, to identify reasonable alternatives and to develop a remediation plan.  Development of the remediation plan shall include an on-site review.  The district shall have two years to make progress on the remediation plan.  At the conclusion of the two years or earlier, the district shall report its progress on the remediation plan. 

(f)  Within 30 days of receipt of the district’s report of progress, the commissioner shall notify the district that its progress is either satisfactory or not satisfactory. 

(1)  If the district fails to make satisfactory progress, the commissioner shall notify the district that, in the ensuing school year, the commissioner shall withhold 10 percent of the district’s special education expenditures reimbursement pending satisfactory compliance with the plan. 

(2)  If the district fails to make satisfactory progress after the first year of withholding, 10 percent shall be withheld in each subsequent year pending satisfactory compliance with the plan; provided, however, before funds are withheld in any year under this subdivision (f)(2), the district shall explain to the state board of education either the reasons the district believes it made satisfactory progress on the remediation plan or the reasons it failed to do so.  The board’s decision whether to withhold funds under this subdivision shall be final.       

(3)  If the district makes satisfactory progress under any subdivision of this subsection, the commissioner shall release to the district any special education expenditures reimbursement withheld for the prior fiscal year only.

(g)  Within 10 days after receiving the commissioner’s notice under subdivision (f)(1) of this section, the district may challenge the commissioner’s decision by filing a written objection to the state board of education outlining the reasons the district believes it made satisfactory progress on the remediation plan.  The commissioner may file a written response within 10 days after the district’s objection is filed.  The board may give the district and the commissioner an opportunity to be heard.  The board’s decision shall be final.  The state shall withhold no portion of the district’s reimbursement before the state board issues its decision under this subsection.

(h)  Nothing in this section shall prevent a school district from seeking and receiving the technical assistance of department staff to reduce its special education spending.

* * * Analysis of High Spending * * *

Sec. 11.  SCHOOL DISTRICTS; ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

                REGARDING HIGH SPENDING

On or before January 15, 2008, the commissioner of education shall explore, analyze, and report to the general assembly regarding the reasons school districts exceed the excess spending threshold defined in 32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) and shall develop recommendations, including criteria, for exempting school districts from the consequences of exceeding the threshold in certain circumstances, including when:

(1)  The district has high costs for special education services, the department has recommended ways to lower the costs, the district has followed the recommendations, and the district still exceeds the threshold; or

(2)  The district has high costs for special education services, the department has been unable to identify ways to lower the costs, and the district still exceeds the threshold; or

(3)  The district pays tuition for all or most of its students to attend one or more schools outside of the district and the commissioner determines that it is not possible for the district to make alternative arrangements that would enable it to stay beneath the high spending threshold.

* * * Notice to Taxpayers * * *

Sec. 12.  32 V.S.A. § 5402(b)(1) is amended to read:

(b)  Calculation of education tax.

(1)  The commissioner of taxes shall determine for each municipality the education tax rates under subsection (a) of this section, divided by the municipality's most recent common level of appraisal.  The legislative body in each municipality shall then bill each property taxpayer at the homestead or nonresidential rate determined by the commissioner under this subdivision, multiplied by the education property tax grand list value of the property, properly classified as homestead or nonresidential property and without regard to any other tax classification of the property.  Each homestead property tax bill shall include notice of the education spending per equalized pupil in the taxpayer's district and its relation to the base education payment; and the effect of the education spending in the district upon the homestead tax rate and the applicable percentage for income sensitivity; and shall also include an insert supplied by the commissioner of taxes which explains the relationship of district education spending and the common level of appraisal to property tax rates.  Tax bills shall show the tax due and the calculation of the rate determined under subsection (a) of this section, divided by the municipality's most recent common level of appraisal, multiplied by the current grand list value of the property to be taxed.  Each homestead property tax bill shall include a copy of the two page document attached to the May 11, 2007 memorandum from the speaker of the house to the commissioner of taxes, which shall be updated annually for each town by the commissioner of taxes.

* * * Cost Drivers, Collaboration; Efficiencies * * *

* * * Reports * * *

Sec. 13.  EDUCATION SPENDING; COST DRIVERS

By June 1, 2007, the joint fiscal office shall provide an initial report to the house and senate committees on education analyzing the cost drivers of education spending, including special education services, transportation, administrative costs, energy costs, salaries, and health benefits.  The analysis shall not only identify the increase or decrease of specific budget items, but shall also examine changes in the frequency, intensity, and availability of the activities, goods, or services that have been identified as cost drivers.  The joint fiscal office shall submit a follow‑up report to the same committees before December 1, 2007, and annually by December 1 thereafter. 


Sec. 14.  OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY OF THE

                DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

(a)  There is created a committee to select an independent individual or entity with expertise in conducting performance reviews of state entities, who shall evaluate the department of education and propose ways to increase the department’s effectiveness and operational efficiency.  The committee shall act as a resource for and shall review the work of the selected independent individual or entity.

(b)  The committee shall consist of the following members:

(1)  The commissioner of education or designee who shall act as chair and shall convene the first meeting on or before July 1, 2007.

(2)  One member from each of the following entities, to be selected by the entity:  the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont principals’ association, the Vermont national education association, the Vermont council of special education administrators, and the Vermont association for school business officials.

(3)  One representative from the business community to be selected by the Vermont business roundtable.

(c)  The evaluation of the department shall include:

(1)  An examination of the effectiveness and efficiency of the department with respect to its internal operations, its relationship and communications with other state entities, and its relationship and communications with the field. 

(2)  A review and analysis of ways to increase the operational efficiency of the department by, for example, streamlining communications within the department and within the entire education system. 

(3)  Identification of ways to eliminate redundancies, inefficiencies, outdated work methods, and cumbersome reporting systems; to address capacity issues; and to streamline current practices and processes.

(4)  The creation of an ongoing strategic planning process that allows for constant review of operational performance within the department and in the field. 

(d)  The individual or entity selected by the committee may consult with public and private entities as needed.

(e)  On or before December 31, 2007, the individual or entity shall submit a written report to the members of the house and senate committees on education including his or her analysis, recommendations, and proposals for amendments to legislation, if any. 

(f)  On or before December 31, 2008 the commissioner of education shall report to the house and senate committees on education regarding implementation of the recommendations.

Sec. 15.  PROVISION OF SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES; STUDY

(a)  As a continuation of the work contained in the Report on the Provision of Special Education Services issued in January 2001, the joint fiscal office (“JFO”), in consultation with the secretary of human services, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of employment and training, the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont principals’ association, the Vermont – national education association, the Vermont council for special education administrators, the Vermont coalition for disability rights, the Vermont parent information center, the Vermont council of developmental and mental health services, and other members of the education community, shall study how the agency of human services, the department of education, and the department of employment and training should provide for special education services for eligible persons under 22 years of age in school or out of school and for other human

services-related services for elementary and secondary students. 

(b)  In conducting its study, the JFO shall:

(1)  Identify human service functions that are performed by public schools as social, economic, and mental health needs have grown beyond the fiscal capabilities of the agency of human services.

(2)  Provide a method for calculating the total cost to the education fund of providing those services.

(3)  Assess the extent to which school districts have absorbed service costs for special needs children that either were historically paid by other service providers or would ordinarily be considered a cost of other service providers, including the extent to which:

(A)  children formerly admitted to institutional care are now being provided services through special education;

(B)  costs now found in school budgets historically were part of the budgets of nonschool agencies;

(C)  costs now found in school budgets would be attributable to nonschool agencies; and

(D)  Medicaid funds are being used to provide services.

(4)  Examine the interagency agreement regarding coordination of special education services entered into pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(12) to determine if services are currently provided and paid for in the most appropriate and cost-effective ways.

(c)  The JFO shall report its findings and recommendations to the general assembly on or before November 1, 2007.

Sec. 16.  EDUCATIONAL SERVICES FUNDED BY MEDICAID; STUDY

(a)  The joint fiscal office, in consultation with the office of Vermont health access, the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration, and the department of education shall study how to maximize federal Medicaid funds by ensuring that all students eligible for Medicaid or Dr. Dynasaur are enrolled and stay enrolled in the programs.  The joint fiscal office shall report results of the study to the house committees on education and on human services and the senate committees on education and on health and welfare by December 1, 2007.

(b)  The study shall include estimates of:

(1)  the number of children with individualized education plans (IEP) who lose health care coverage through Dr. Dynasaur because of nonpayment of a premium, the number who are uninsured and eligible for Medicaid or Dr. Dynasaur, and the number who are privately insured and eligible for Medicaid or Dr. Dynasaur, and determine the financial impact on schools because of the lack of enrollment or disenrollment; and

(2)  the potential cost-savings to Medicaid of targeting enrollment of children eligible for SCHIP‑funded Dr. Dynasaur services.

Sec. 17.  MANDATES; REPORT

The legislative council and the joint fiscal office, in consultation with the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont principals’ association, the Vermont – national education association, the Vermont council for special education administrators, superintendents, principals, school board members, and school personnel shall examine the requirements placed on local school districts resulting from state and federal legislation and state board rules implemented since January 1, 1997.  The examination will identify and quantify associated process and implementation requirements, the effects on staffing and technology, the financial implications, and any interagency cost shifts.  Legislative council and the joint fiscal office shall prepare a report for submission to the senate and house committees on education on or before December 1, 2007.

Sec. 18.  FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SUPERVISORY UNIONS

(a)  The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, and the Vermont association for school business officials shall:

(1)  Examine the systems of financial management currently used by Vermont school districts and supervisory unions.

(2)  Examine the range of training and expertise currently held by persons responsible for the financial management of Vermont school districts and supervisory unions.

(3)  Examine and assess the training or credentials required of financial managers employed by public schools or school districts in other states.

(4)  Develop proposals to ensure that all school districts consistently use uniform, high‑quality financial management practices.

(5)  Consider ways to integrate the financial management systems among all school districts in order to assist districts to share financial information with each other, with the public, and with the department and identify the data that the department would seek from the districts if the systems were integrated.   

(6)  Determine the length of time and the estimated cost of implementing an integrated financial management system, including approximate costs of system maintenance and upgrade. 

(7)  Consider the impacts and advisability of consolidating school business management services at the supervisory union level.

(b)  On or before November 15, 2007, the commissioner shall submit a report to the senate committee on education outlining the results of the analysis required in subsection (a) of this section and recommending proposals to ensure uniform, high quality financial management practices.  The report shall also include an analysis of the budgetary impact of the proposals, if any. 

Sec. 19.  EDUCATION GOVERNANCE; COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

(a)  In May 2006, the commissioner of education released a white paper outlining a plan for changing education governance in Vermont and initiating a year of facilitated public discussions throughout the state.  The final discussion session is scheduled for May 2007. 

(b)  On or before December 1, 2007, the commissioner shall submit a report to the house and senate committees on education that describes insights obtained from the recently concluded public engagement process.  The report shall consider other governance models and shall also outline any proposals the commissioner wishes to make for restructuring governance in Vermont, which shall include proposals to provide financial incentives for consolidation.  Any proposed changes should foster increased cooperation and collaboration among public schools and provide support for the new demands and expectations placed on schools by an increasingly technological and global society. 

(c)  The commissioner shall request the following organizations to submit, jointly or independently, recommendations regarding the future governance of school districts:  the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont principals’ association, and the Vermont national education association.  The commissioner shall include the recommendations in the report to the house and senate committees on education required in subsection (b) of this section.

* * * School Construction; State Aid * * *

Sec. 20.  16 V.S.A. § 3448(a)(2) is amended to read:

(2)  Approval of preliminary application.

(A)  When reviewing a preliminary application for approval, the commissioner shall consider:

(i)  regional educational opportunities and needs, including school building capacities across school district boundaries, and available infrastructure in neighboring communities;

(ii)  economic efficiencies;

(iii)  the suitability of an existing school building to continue to meet educational needs; and

(iv)  statewide educational initiatives and the strategic plan of the state board of education.

(B)  The commissioner may approve a preliminary application if:

(A)(i)  The project or part of the project fulfills a need occasioned by:

(i)(I)  conditions which threaten the health or safety of students or employees;

(ii)(II)  facilities which are inadequate to provide programs required by state or federal law or regulation;

(iii)(III)  excessive energy use resulting from the design of a building or reliance on fossil fuels or electric space heat; or

(iv)(IV)  deterioration of an existing building;

(B)(ii)  The need addressed by the project cannot reasonably be met by another means; and

(C)(iii)  The proposed type, kind, quality, size, and estimated cost of the project are suitable for the proposed curriculum and meet all legal standards.

* * * Special Education; Miscellaneous Provisions * * *

Sec. 21.  32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) is amended to read:

(12)  “Excess spending” means:

(A)  the per‑equalized pupil amount of:

(i)  the district’s education spending, plus any amount required to be added from a capital construction reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804(b); minus

(ii)  the portion of education spending which is approved school capital construction spending or deposited into a reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804 to pay future approved school capital construction costs, including that portion of tuition paid to an independent school designated as the public high school of the school district pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 827 for capital construction costs by the independent school which has received approval from the state board of education, using the processes for preliminary approval of public school construction costs pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 3448(a)(2); and minus

(iii)  the portion of education spending attributable to the district’s share of special education spending in excess of $50,000.00 for any one student in the fiscal year occurring two years prior;

* * *

Sec. 22.  EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 21 shall take effect on July 1, 2007 in order to be reflected in the threshold for fiscal year 2009.

Sec. 23.  16 V.S.A. § 2950(a) is amended to read:

(a)  School district reimbursement.  For the costs of educating a state‑placed student, the school district serving the child shall  The school district responsible for educating a state-placed student under section 1075 of this title may claim and the commissioner shall reimburse the allowable special education costs other than costs for mainstream services as that term is defined by the commissioner.  In addition, reimbursable costs shall include 100 percent of all special education costs for the student, including costs for mainstream services.  As a condition of receiving this reimbursement, the district shall provide documentation in support of its claim, sufficient to enable the commissioner to determine whether to recommend appropriate cost-saving alternatives.  The commissioner may approve any additional costs approved by the commissioner which are incurred in educating a state‑placed student who is not eligible for special education and that are incurred due to the special needs of the student, and, if approved, the commissioner shall pay those costs.  When a state agency places and registers a student in a new district, the district may request and the department of education, the agency that placed the student, or both, shall provide prompt consultative and technical assistance to the receiving district.

Sec. 24.  EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 23 shall take effect on July 1, 2008.

Sec. 25.  16 V.S.A. § 212(17) is added to read:

§ 212.  COMMISSIONER’S DUTIES GENERALLY

The commissioner shall execute those policies adopted by the state board in the legal exercise of its powers and shall:

* * *

(17)  Encourage and facilitate collaboration among school districts and supervisory unions to share information and expertise regarding low‑incidence special education needs.

Sec. 26.  16 V.S.A. § 2973a is added to read:

§ 2973a.  SPECIAL EDUCATION; BEST PRACTICES; POLICY

It is the public policy of the state that integrated special education services are recognized as an essential responsibility of the educational system that benefits all students and contribute to the good of the state.  This section and section 2974 of this title recognize that best practices in delivery of such services promote this policy.


* * * Three- to Five-Year Rolling Reappraisals Reappraisal; Study * * *

Sec. 27.  ROLLING REAPPRAISAL STUDY 

(a)  The director of the division of property valuation and review of the department of taxes shall study the feasibility of adopting a statewide system of rolling reappraisals on a three- or five-year basis. 

(b)  In the study, the director shall consult with the following:

(1)  Vermont Assessors and Listers Association.

(2)  Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

(3)  International Association of Assessing Officers.

(4)  One lister from a town with a greater number of residents than the average in Vermont, and one lister from a town with a lesser number of residents than the average.

(c)  The director shall analyze and make recommendations regarding:

(1)  mandatory lister and appraiser and board of civil authority training;

(2)  uniform appraisal methods;

(3)  estimated costs of creating such a system;

(4)  options for how the three- or five-year cycle could be implemented (such as a new grand list every third year; a new one-third of the grand list every year; specified categories of property reappraised every third year; properties in specified regions reappraised every third year; etc.);

(5)  advantages and disadvantages of state-level utility property appraisal, and recommended utility property appraisal methodology;

(6)  timeline for implementation of the system and transition provisions which would be needed;

(7)  whether an equalization study would still be required with such a system, and, if so, how significant the common level of appraisal would be in determining education property tax liabilities;

(8)  any other issues which the director may identify as significant to the analysis.

(d)  The director shall report the findings and recommendations to the house committee on ways and means and the senate committee on finance by November 1, 2007.

* * * Small School Consolidation * * *

Sec. 28.  16 V.S.A. § 4015(e) is amended to read:

(e)  In the event that a school or schools which have received a grant under this section merge in any year following receipt of a grant, and the consolidated school is not eligible for a grant under this section or the small school grant for the consolidated school is less than the total amount of grant aid the schools would have received if they had not combined, the consolidated school shall continue to receive a grant for three years following consolidation.  The amount of the annual grant shall be:

(1)  In the first year following consolidation, an amount equal to the amount received by the school or schools in the last year of eligibility.

(2)  In the second year following consolidation, an amount equal to two‑thirds of the amount received in the previous year.

(3)  In the third year following consolidation, an amount equal to

one-third of the amount received in the first year following consolidation.

* * * Collective Bargaining at the Supervisory Union Level * * *

Sec. 29.  16 V.S.A. § 1981 is amended to read: 

§ 1981.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter unless the context requires otherwise:

* * *

(2)  “Professional negotiations” means the meeting, conferring, consulting, discussing, and negotiating in good faith between a school board negotiations council and a teachers’ organization negotiations council or an administrators’ organization negotiations council to reach agreement.

* * *

(6)  A “teachers’ organization” or an “administrators’ organization” means an organization, committee, council, group, or separate unit thereof in which teachers or administrators participate and which exists, in whole or in part, for the purpose of professional negotiation.

* * *

(8)  “School board negotiations council” means, for a supervisory district, its school board, and, for school districts within a supervisory union, the body comprising representatives designated by each school board within the supervisory union to engage in professional negotiations with a teachers’ or administrators’ organization. 

(A)  School districts within a supervisory union that has more than one public high school, however, may form separate negotiations councils, each consisting of representatives, as appropriate, designated by:

(i)  Each school district providing kindergarten through grade 12 within the supervisory union; or

(ii)  The school board for a high school within the supervisory union and the board of each elementary school, if any, that sends its students to the high school.  

(B)  A school district, however, may form a separate negotiations council if it:

(i)  Maintains a school but does not offer grades 9 through 12;

(ii)  Is not a member of a union high school district; and

(iii)  Is in a supervisory union that includes a district providing kindergarten through grade 12.

(9)  “Teachers’ organization negotiations council” or “administrators’ organization negotiations council” means the body comprising representatives designated by each teachers’ organization or administrators’ organization within a supervisory district or supervisory union to act as its representative for professional negotiations. 

(A)  Teachers’ or administrators’ organizations within a supervisory union that has more than one public high school, however, may form separate negotiations councils, each consisting of representatives designated by the teachers’ or administrators’ organization, as appropriate, of:

(i)  Each school district providing kindergarten through grade 12 within the supervisory union; or

(ii)  A high school within the supervisory union and of each elementary school, if any, that sends its students to the high school.

(B)  A teachers’ or administrators’ organization, however, may form a separate negotiations council if it is within a school district that:

(i)  Maintains a school but does not offer grades 9 through 12;

(ii)  Is not a member of a union high school district; and

(iii)  Is in a supervisory union that includes a district providing kindergarten through grade 12.

Sec. 30.  16 V.S.A. § 1991(a) is amended to read:

(a)  Teachers and administrators may select organizations to represent them on their negotiations council in collective negotiations with the school board negotiations council.  The school board shall recognize an organization as the exclusive representative of the teachers or of the administrators in the school district when that organization has proved its claim to sole and exclusive representative status of the respective group as hereinafter provided.  The superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and the principal shall not serve as negotiating agents for the teachers’ organization.

Sec. 31.  16 V.S.A. § 2001 is amended to read:

§ 2001.  GOOD FAITH

The negotiations councils of the school board and of the recognized teacher or administrator teachers’ or administrators’ organization shall meet together at reasonable times, upon request of either party, and shall negotiate in good faith on all matters properly before them under the provisions of this chapter.

Sec. 32.  16 V.S.A. § 2003 is amended to read:

§ 2003.  TIME TO BEGIN

The teacher or administrator organizations holding exclusive negotiating rights shall make a request for commencement of negotiations either to their school board or to the school board negotiations council no later than one hundred and twenty 120 days prior to the earliest school district’s district annual meeting conducted within the supervisory union.


Sec. 33.  16 V.S.A. § 2004 is amended to read:

§ 2004.  AGENDA

The school board, either directly or through authorized representatives through its negotiations council, shall, upon request, negotiate with representatives of the recognized organizations teachers’ or administrators’ organization negotiations council on matters of salary, related economic conditions of employment, an agency service fee, procedures for processing complaints and grievances relating to employment, and any mutually agreed upon matters not in conflict with the statutes and laws of the state of Vermont.

Sec. 34.  16 V.S.A. § 2005 is amended to read:

§ 2005.  WRITTEN AGREEMENT

The negotiations councils for the school board and the recognized teachers’ or administrators’ organization shall enter into a written agreement or agreements incorporating therein matters agreed to in negotiation.

Sec. 35.  16 V.S.A. § 2006 is amended to read:

§ 2006.  MEDIATOR

If, after negotiation has taken place on all matters properly before them, the negotiations councils for the school board and a negotiating teachers’ or administrators’ organization are unable to reach agreement on specific negotiable items, they may jointly agree upon the services and person of a mediator for the purpose of assisting them in reconciling their differences and resolving the controversy on terms which are mutually acceptable.  If agreement cannot be reached upon the person of a mediator, then either party may request mediation upon any and all unresolved issues to be conducted by the American Arbitration Association or its designee.  The parties shall meet with the mediator and make such information available as required.

Sec. 36.  16 V.S.A. § 2007(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The fact‑finding committee, which shall be activated as soon as practicable upon request, shall be composed of one member selected by the school board negotiations council, one member selected by the negotiating negotiations council for the teachers’ or administrators’ organization, and one member who shall serve as chairman chair, to be chosen by the other two members.  In the event that agreement cannot be reached on a third member for the fact‑finding committee, the American Arbitration Association shall be asked to appoint the third member.

Sec. 37.  16 V.S.A. § 2009 is amended to read:

§ 2009.  DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY

School The negotiations councils for school boards and negotiating for teachers’ and administrators’ organizations are empowered to delegate in whole or in part the responsibility for negotiation of the collective agreement to any persons they may choose.  However, final ratification of any agreement on behalf of the a school board shall remain the sole responsibility of the school board, unless the school board has agreed to binding interest arbitration pursuant to subchapter 4 of this chapter.

Sec. 38.  16 V.S.A. § 2021(a) is amended to read:

(a)  Arbitration shall only occur if both parties the recognized organization and one or more of the school boards agree in writing to submit to binding arbitration for one or more issues remaining in dispute.  An agreement to accept binding interest arbitration may not be revoked and shall apply only to the parties to the arbitration.

Sec. 39.  21 V.S.A. § 1722(18)–(20) are added to read:

§ 1722.  DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this chapter:

* * *

(18)  “School board negotiations council” means, for a supervisory district, its school board, and, for school districts within a supervisory union, the body comprising representatives designated by each school board within the supervisory union to engage in collective bargaining with their school employees’ negotiations council. 

(A)  School districts within a supervisory union that has more than one public high school, however, may form separate negotiations councils, each consisting of representatives, as appropriate, designated by:

(i)  Each school district providing kindergarten through grade 12 within the supervisory union; or

(ii)  The school board for a high school within the supervisory union and the board of each elementary school, if any, that sends its students to the high school.

(B)  A school district, however, may form a separate negotiations council if it:

(i)  Maintains a school but does not offer grades 9 through 12;

(ii)  Is not a member of a union high school district; and

(iii)  Is in a supervisory union that includes a district providing kindergarten through grade 12.

(19)  “School employees’ negotiations council” means the body comprising representatives designated by each exclusive bargaining agent within a supervisory district or supervisory union to engage in collective bargaining with its school board negotiations council. 

(A)  Exclusive bargaining agents within a supervisory union that has more than one public high school, however, may form separate negotiations councils, each consisting of representatives designated by the exclusive bargaining agent, as appropriate, of:

(i)  Each school district providing kindergarten through grade 12 within the supervisory union; or

(ii)  A high school within the supervisory union and of each elementary school, if any, that sends its students to the high school.  

(B)  An exclusive bargaining agent, however, may form a separate negotiations council if it is within a school district that:

(i)  Maintains a school but does not offer grades 9 through 12;

(ii)  Is not a member of a union high school district; and

(iii)  Is in a supervisory union that includes a district providing kindergarten through grade 12.

(20)  “Supervisory district” and “supervisory union” shall have the same meaning as in section 11 of Title 16.

Sec. 40.  21 V.S.A. § 1725(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The municipal employer shall be represented in the bargaining by its legislative body or its designated representative or representatives.  If the municipal employer is a supervisory district or supervisory union, it shall be represented by the school board negotiations council, and the bargaining unit shall be represented by the school employees’ negotiations council.

Sec. 41.  TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

(a)  Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, collective bargaining agreements between school boards and their employees entered into before the effective date of this act shall remain in effect until their expiration and until the terms of the successor agreements are established.

(b)  Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, collective bargaining agreements for which negotiations began prior to July 1, 2008, but which are executed after that date, shall remain in effect until their expiration and until the terms of the successor agreements are established.

(c)  School employers and employees beginning negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement after July 1, 2008 shall do so in accordance with the provisions of this act.

(d)  Nothing in this act shall prevent a school district and its employees from amending an existing agreement to expire on a date earlier than previously agreed to for purposes of entering into an agreement under this act. 

(e)  Nothing shall prevent an agreement negotiated under this act from containing staggered effective dates for the different districts within the supervisory union. 

* * * Effective Dates * * *

Sec. 42.  EFFECTIVE DATES 

Except as explicitly provided in Secs. 3 (property tax adjustment cap), 6 (divided question for voters), 9 (weighted membership), 22 (removing special education costs in excess of $50,000.00 from excess spending), and 24 (special education costs of a state-placed student), all sections of this act shall take effect on July 1, 2007.

Approved:  June 11, 2007



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us