Free Facebook 101 Class to be offered at Goodwil

The course aims to teach individuals how to set up a Facebook account and how to monitor the account wall. This course will also answer the following questions: Who, What, When, and Where to Post? Attendees will learn best practices for posting pictures, comments, and liking pages.

Attendees must pre-register to attend. Call the Career Center to reserve your spot in this Free Facebook 101 class at (304) 523-7461.


Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA Area, Inc. is a multi-service agency offering job training, education and job finding skills to people with disabilities or other disadvantaging conditions as well as individual, family and group counseling; consumer credit counseling services and homebuyer education programs; cardboard and electronic recycling; and industrial and janitorial contract services. Revenue from the sale of donated goods in 12 retail stores in West Virginia and Kentucky and online, helps support these services. 

Moody’s assigns rating to junior notes in J.G. Wentworth structured settlement …

Approximately $4.7 million of asset-backed securities rated

New York, September 10, 2015 — Moodys Investors Service has assigned a Baa3 (sf) rating to the Class
B Notes issued in December 2008 by 321 Henderson Receivables V LLC (the
Issuer), and collateralized by a pool of structured settlement payments
and assignable annuity streams. Moodys currently rates the
Issuers Class A-1 Notes Aaa(sf) and Class A-2 Notes
Aa2(sf) (the Senior Notes, and together with the Class B Notes,
the Notes).

Issuer: 321 Henderson Receivables V LLC, Series 2008-3

$4,695,000 Class B Fixed Rate Asset Backed Notes,
Assigned Baa3 (sf); previously on Dec 30, 2008 Assigned NR


Moodys rating on the Class B Notes reflect its assessment of the quality
of the court-ordered structured settlement payment streams and
annuity receivables, the creditworthiness of the obligors,
the servicing arrangement, and the structural and legal features.

The main driver of credit risk in this transaction is the obligor base.
As in the Sponsors previous securitizations, the pool of obligors
is primarily highly rated life insurance companies, of which approximately
72% (based on the present value of the securitized receivables
at closing) have an insurance financial strength rating of A3 or higher.

The Issuers assets include court-ordered structured settlement
payments (around 95.86% of the present value of the receivables
at closing) and annuity receivables (around 4.14% of the
present value of the receivables at closing), in addition to a reserve
account with around $938,946.

The servicing arrangement reduces the risk of a servicing disruption.
As part of the servicing arrangement, Deutsche Bank Trust Company
Americas (A1/P-1 stable) (DBTCA) is the Master Servicer for the
transaction and is responsible for servicing, managing, and
making collections on the receivables. DBTCA is not the servicer
of the assignable annuities (lt;5% of the collateral) but will
become the servicer if JG Wentworth Management Company
LLC (Wentworth) defaults. DBTCA entered into a sub-servicing
agreement with Wentworth to perform a significant portion of the servicing
duties on behalf of DBTCA. Wentworth is the primary servicer of
the assignable annuities. Wentworth has the experience and expertise
to perform the day to day servicing of the collateral. In addition,
Portfolio Financial Servicing Company (PFSC) will act as hot back-up
servicer. PFSC is expected to be able to perform Wentworths servicing
duties within a relatively short period of time, if needed.

The transaction has a turbo structure in which the trustee, acting
as paying agent, distributes all collections, net of certain
fees and expenses, to, first, pay interest on the Notes
and, second, pay down the Senior Notes outstanding principal
balance until paid in full.

The Class B Notes benefit from 7.82% subordination provided
by the Issuer Interest. In addition, the ratings of the Class
B Notes take into account that Class B noteholders will not receive principal
payments until the Senior Notes are paid in full and the possibility that,
due to structural features, Class B noteholders may cease to receive
any interest payments until the Senior Notes are paid in full.
Finally, the Notes also benefit from a non-declining reserve
account, currently equal to about 1.54% of the present
value of the receivables.


The principal methodology used in this rating was Moodys Approach to
Rating Transactions Backed by Structured Settlements published in December
2011. Please see the Credit Policy page on
for a copy of this methodology.

In addition, for this transaction, Moodys qualitative analysis
focused primarily on evaluating (1) servicing disruption risk; (2)
cash management; and (3) payment diversion risk.

Servicing disruption risk

Under the transactions terms, DBTCA is the Master Servicer and
is responsible for servicing, managing and making collections on
the receivables. Wentworth is the primary servicer of the assignable
annuities, but DBTCA will become the servicer if Wentworth defaults.
Finally, PFSC is the hot back-up servicer.

Cash management

Obligors will deposit payments into lockbox accounts and payments will
thereafter be transferred to the Master Collection Account and the Annuity
Collection Account. 2008-3 Receivable Collections will be
commingled with collections of Receivables for Series other than Series
2008-3. Within 2 business days after being deposited into
the Master Collection Account or Annuity Collection Account, the
Collections are identified in daily reports delivered to the Collateral
Trustee and Administrative Agent by the Master Servicer and subsequently
transferred to a segregated collection account by Series. This
arrangement should successfully isolate the flow of funds to the transaction.

Payment diversion risk

Payment diversion risk arises from settlement claimants attempting to
divert payments from the securitization. This risk is low because
approximately 95.86% of the present value of the receivables
will consist of court-ordered transfers of structured settlement
receivables. Court-ordered transfers of structured settlements
consist of receivables created following enactment of the Victims of Terrorism
Tax Relief Act of 2001, which stipulates that the sale of a structured
settlement receivable must be subject to a court order directing the structured
settlement obligors to remit payments to a given party. Therefore,
the Issuers right to receive settlement payments is backed by strong
legal protections.

Factors that would lead to an upgrade or downgrade of the rating:


An upgrade of the Class B Notes is unlikely in the near term due to the
fact that Class B noteholders will not receive principal payments until
the Senior Notes are paid in full.


Moodys could downgrade the ratings of the Notes if the credit risk
profile of the obligors (primarily life insurance companies) were to deteriorate
significantly, as reflected by a downgrade of one or more of the
obligors credit ratings.


For further specification of Moodys key rating assumptions and sensitivity
analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity
to Assumptions of the disclosure form.

Further information on the representations and warranties and enforcement
mechanisms available to investors are available on

The analysis relies on a Monte Carlo simulation that generates a large
number of collateral loss or cash flow scenarios, which on average
meet key metrics Moodys determines based on its assessment of the
collateral characteristics. Moodys then evaluates each simulated
scenario using model that replicates the relevant structural features
and payment allocation rules of the transaction, to derive losses
or payments for each rated instrument. The average loss a rated
instrument incurs in all of the simulated collateral loss or cash flow
scenarios, which Moodys weights based on its assumptions
about the likelihood of events in such scenarios actually occurring,
results in the expected loss of the rated instrument.

Moodys did not use any stress scenario simulations in its analysis.

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt,
this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation
to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series
or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings
are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moodys
rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider,
this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation
to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular
rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the
support providers credit rating. For provisional ratings,
this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation
to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive
rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt,
in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed
prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would
have affected the rating. For further information please see the
ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit
support from the primary entity(ies) of this rating action, and
whose ratings may change as a result of this rating action, the
associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity.
Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures,
if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure
to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit
rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating

Please see for any updates on changes to
the lead rating analyst and to the Moodys legal entity that has issued
the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on
for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Andrew Butville
Asst Vice President – Analyst
Structured Finance Group
Moodys Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Luisa De Gaetano
Senior Vice President/Manager
Structured Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moodys Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moodys assigns rating to junior notes in JG Wentworth structured settlement securitization

Avoid missteps that make credit problems worse

Fortunately, there are good guides to avoiding credit pitfalls. I recommend Robin Leonards book Credit Repair (12th edition, NOLO), which comprehensively covers credit reports, negotiating with creditors and debt collectors, selecting a good credit-counseling organization, rebuilding credit, effective use of credit cards and avoiding or dealing with identity theft.

The key to making good decisions is knowing what your options are. The following advice can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Rauner won’t commit to signing Rahm’s property tax relief plan

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise the homeowner exemption will make the bitter pill of a $500 million property tax increase easier to swallow, aldermen said Monday, but Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office cast doubt on whether the Republican governor would sign such a bill.

City Hall sources said House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, are on board with the mayor’s plan and committed to shepherd the legislation through the General Assembly once final details are hammered out.

But so long as they are embroiled in a state budget stalemate with Rauner over the governor’s unyielding demand for pro-business, anti-union reforms, it appears that the mayor’s longtime friend could be a political roadblock.

On Monday, the governor’s office was asked whether Rauner would sign legislation raising a homeowner exemption that now stands at $7,000 of a home’s assessed valuation and is scheduled to drop to $6,000.

Before the bottom dropped out of the real estate market, the homeowner exemption was capped at $33,000 or 7 percent of assessed valuation.

“The governor has proposed legislation that would freeze property taxes and provide significant new support for CPS,” the governor’s spokesman Catherine Kelly wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Raising taxes alone wont fix our problems. We need structural reforms to help cities like Chicago control costs.”

Pressed for a yes or no about signing legislation raising the homeowner exemption, Kelly declined to comment further.

Rauner wasn’t the only one to question the mayors  plan to hold owner-occupied homes valued at less than $250,000 harmless from a $500 million property tax increase that could otherwise cost their owners $500 more-a-year.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he’s been getting an earful from the owners and tenants of large commercial buildings. In Cook County, owners of commercial property are assessed at a rate of 25 percent of full market value — compared to just ten percent for residential property. The higher the homeowner exemption goes, the more businesses will have to pay to make up the difference.

“It’s not my concern — yet. But what I’ve been hearing is that some are concerned that the way these leases are structured in their buildings, the property taxes are passed directly to the tenant,” Reilly said, questioning the $500 million increase.

“And so for some new tenants who have been brought here through corporate headquarters victories — relocations by the mayor — that maybe we might lose some of those folks. That’s not my view. That’s the view I’m hearing from some of my constituents. I’m going to keep my powder dry until I get the full view of what the mayor is proposing here. [But] I’m concerned about the impact of a large property tax on the Central Business District.”

Reilly then shifted to the mayor’s plan to raise another $100 million by imposing a monthly garbage collection fee of roughly $11 to $12 a month per household.

“Ninety-eight percent of my constituents already pay for private waste hauling service. The current program is unsustainable. I’m inclined to support that revenue stream [a garbage collection fee] if it means we can take some pressure off the local property tax,” the alderman said.

Most aldermen said the property tax break — if and when it wins legislative approval — would make it easier for them to walk the political plank by approving a 60 percent property tax increase.

“Most of my property owners have condos worth less than $250,000, particularly since the recession. If this goes through, it helps to make property tax increase a little bit more progressive and shields from that increase the people least able to pay for it,” Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said.

“This would probably make the bitter pill a little bit easier to swallow. I can’t imagine any legislator voting against increasing the homeowners’ exemption. And I can’t imagine the governor vetoing something tantamount to tax relief for families. Unlike most of the stuff down there, this would have an excellent chance of getting passed.”

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) added, “The two legislative leaders are on board in providing some buffer to low-income families. It also falls in line with Gov. Rauner’s rhetoric on a property tax freeze. This should be something everyone can rally around.”

But he said, “Even without the deal, there isn’t much choice.” There’s no other way to stabilize the city’s finances and save the pensions for first-responders. There aren’t any other levers for us to pull.”

Ald. Will Burns (4th) said the mayor’s plan to “significantly increase” the homeowner exemption would “provide relief to people at the bottom of the economic ladder — people who may have property, but not a lot of income.”

“Increasing the property tax exemption makes it easier to build support for a property tax increase. It will provide relief to a segment of taxpayers. You’re trying to soften the blow and introduce progressivity into a regressive tax,” he said.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the grandson of former Mayor Richard J. Daley, urged Emanuel to go a step further, by tacking the garbage collection fee onto the property tax bill, instead of on water bills.

“If we add it to the property tax, at least the taxpayers get the benefit of the tax write-off. We have to look at it from that perspective as well,” Thompson said.

Rent or buy a home? What millennials should know

More millennials are moving into the real estate market. About 65 percent of people ages 25 to 34 years old surveyed by in mid-June said they plan to buy in the next three months.

But buying is not always the best option. When deciding one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, keep these things in mind to see if youre better off buying or renting.

Read MoreMillennials leasing more than ever

Heres where it makes sense to rent:

You have limited funds. If you dont have the money for a down payment and additional costs of owning a home, renting is the best option. Use rent-versus-buy calculators at Trulia or to see what you can afford.

You are uncertain about your employment. If you are unsure about your job situation or living paycheck to paycheck, focus on conserving cash for future living expenses and building up your emergency fund, said Evelyn Zohlen, a certified financial planner and president of Inspired Financial in Huntington Beach, California.

Read MoreIs Gen Y worse off than Gen X was?

You have a short-term time horizon. If you are on a work assignment that lasts two years or less, it makes more sense to rent rather than taking on the high transaction costs of purchasing a home. Same goes if you plan to move in the next couple of years or want to start a family in a few years. On a similar note, if you are going through a significant life transition, like divorce or loss of a spouse, renting is a better idea while you get a little better footing.

American Consumer Credit Counseling Offers Five Things to Know About Credit

Boston, MA (PRWEB)
October 01, 2015

National nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling is helping consumers learn more about credit during National Credit Awareness Month this October. ACCC provides five important facts about credit that consumers may not be aware of.

“Credit has a major impact on so many aspects of an individual’s life, from the ability to rent an apartment to buying a car or securing a mortgage,” said Steve Trumble, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “Despite it’s importance, many Americans not only have trouble managing their credit, but they don’t fully grasp how it works and what it means – particularly when it comes to understanding their credit scores.”

Although many consumers have basic knowledge about credit, there are still some major gaps. More than half of Americans are unaware that credit scores measure the risk of not repaying a loan on time rather than their ability to pay based on their annual salary.

Poor credit scores can lead to a variety of challenges, including higher interest rates and the inability to secure certain types of loans. Consumers can avoid this by simply making their payments on time. If consumers take the time to increase their knowledge about credit, they will have the tools to better manage debt and improve their credit scores.

With October being National Credit Awareness Month, American Consumer Credit Counseling offers five things consumers need to know about credit:

1.A good credit score secures financial wellness: Credit is more than just a plastic card you use to buy things–it is your financial trustworthiness. Good credit means that your history of payments, employment and salary make you a good candidate for a loan, and creditors–those who lend money or services–will be more willing to work with you.

2.Bad credit scores are fixable: A bad credit history can haunt you for a long time–seven years or more. Make sure you correct any errors on your report. Asking for help from your creditors can go a long way in terms of fixing bad credit. If you have a poor credit score, take the necessary steps to start fixing it by paying down debt where possible and making payments on time.

3.Make the right choice: Consider fees, limits, interest rates, and benefits – which can vary substantially among credit card issuers – when opening a new card. Some credit cards that look like a great deal at first glance may lose their appeal once you read the terms and conditions of use and calculate how the fees could affect your available credit.

4.Discipline goes a long way: Try to pay your bills on time and in full as much as possible. This will help you avoid late fees, and build a positive credit history.

5.All credit scores are not the same: There are three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion), and they each have their own model for calculating your score. They also may not all be using the same information. Each score matters, and different lenders may be using different scores to evaluate you.

ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:

  • For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
  • For bankruptcy counseling, call 866-826-6924
  • For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
  • Or visit us online at

About American Consumer Credit Counseling

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management and debt relief through education, credit counseling, and debt management solutions. ACCC provides individuals with practical debt solutions for solving financial problems and recognizes that consumers’ financial difficulties are often not the result of poor spending habits, but more frequently from extenuating circumstances beyond their control. As one of the nation’s leading providers of financial education and credit counseling services, ACCC’s certified credit advisors work with consumers to help them determine the best plan of action to get out of debt and regain financial stability. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to or visit

Indian-Americans asked to invest in education in India

Dozens of outstanding philanthropists, non-income, stakeholders and leaders from the South Asian and Indian American philanthropic group attended the dialogue to brainstorm giving.

Lata Krishnan chair of the American India Foundation delivered the 2nd American Bazaar Philanthropy lecture.

While education is necessary in America, the wants are even larger in India and thats the reason I am supporting initiatives in India, Islam stated.

My intent is to use education as a device to enhance the socio-financial standing of the underprivileged in India. My want is those that profit will in flip contribute in the direction of social, political, and financial improvement in India, he added.

Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, born Islam, has introduced a USD 2 million donation to his alma mater, Aligarh Muslim University, which formed my historical past and my journey and decided my future, for constructing the Frank and Debbie Islam School of Management.

The faculty, Islam stated will place emphasis on entrepreneurship and getting ready the scholars at AMU to turn out to be entrepreneurial leaders and have interaction in financial improvement actions that may create jobs and alternatives for hundreds of individuals all through India.

We see our contribution not as a charity however as an funding that may yield exponential returns, he stated.

We not solely help AMU, but in addition give to different instructional establishments as nicely right here in US and in India, stated Islam who was introduced the American Philanthropy award for his pioneering efforts in the fields of education arts and tradition.

Receiving the award from Arun M. Kumar, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, Islam advised fellow Indian-Americans that that they had carried out properly in the US and now it was their flip to do good in India.

Let us collectively change the face of India. One family, one village and one life at a time, he stated. Let us prolong our hope, our assist, and our hand in order that we will collectively change the face of the world.

Apart from AMU, Islam has made main presents and supported scholarships at his alma mater in the US, the University of Colorado at Boulder and his spouse Debbie Driesmans alma mater in Canada, Western University amongst others.

Underlining the significance of strategic philanthropy, Islam stated: I invest in education and promotion of the humanities as a result of these are two of these crucial areas. I refer them as pivot factors -areas that may be leveraged to construct a much bigger and higher future for all.

Education is a pivot level as a result of its the nice equaliser and alternative creator, he stated. Art can also be a pivot level as a result of it educates and advances social causes. Art and tradition transcend all boundaries.

Islam has additionally given $ 1 million to the US Institute of Peace, an organisation devoted to nonviolent prevention and mitigation of battle across the globe, as a result of it is very a lot engaged in curbing violent extremism.

In addition theyre engaged to make the transition to peaceable and secure democracy, he stated.

What does wealth look like from 30000 feet above the Earth?

Im 30,000 feet in the air somewhere above Tallahassee.

Theres not much to see below just the green-gold patchwork of the American South and the deep empty blue of the Gulf of Mexico.

Im on a domestic flight from Atlanta to Miami. From Miami Ill be driving up the east coast of Florida towards Palm Beach, one of the most densely populated parts of the US in terms of brazenly rich people.

As I literally hurtle towards a playground for the rich (in a highly pressurised silver tube help), Ive been wondering how regular people like you and me can become truly wealthy. What does it even mean to be wealthy?

Its something thats been on my mind a lot recently. For two reasons:

One is that I just bought a house on the East Coast of England, so I now essentially live in two places. Its not as la di da as it sounds – while I own on the East Coast (where property is cheap), I still rent in London (where its very expensive). But still, to be able to manage both has given me pause for thought about where I am in my own attempts to become wealthy.

And the second reason is that Ive been thinking about our core reasons for publishing the ideas we do here at Agora Financial UK. One of the key issues that keeps coming up is how quickly people expect to make money. Whether its with a trading system, investing in stocks or even selling information itself, people want the payoff immediately, while experts explain (again and again) that the pay off can only come far in the future.

Can expectation be reconciled with expert opinion? Well, thats the rub, isnt it?

Indeed, since I began in information publishing, over eight years ago, as my own outlook has changed, so has the business itself and the ideas we publish. Like many readers I speak to, I used to think – or rather hope – that I could make a lot of money and make it fast. I figured there must be some secret something that I was missing and just needed to tap into somehow. I wasted a lot of time – and stress – pursuing this empty dream.

Of course, there isnt a secret. The only real secret is to work your ass off as hard as you can from the moment you become sentient and realise that no one is going to do anything for you in life without you doing something for them. In other words, dont muck about at school and college for years for the sake of it. Instead, take that time to listen and learn and get hands on experience in building businesses while you do.

But assuming you didnt already set up a business out of your kitchen or garage while the other kids were drinking lager on the promenade or youve gone into the world of entrepreneurship early on, then youre probably in a similar position to where I was – relying on a single fixed income.

The problem with a single fixed income is that it tends to get eaten up pretty quickly by that thing we call life. As humans we have an incredible ability – unmatched, I would say to spend exactly what we earn.

Indeed, in recent times weve got SO good at it, weve even started spending more than we earn.

This is – of course – not good.

But forget the macro reasons (and implications ) for now. I want to think about this on a personal level. The fact that a single fixed income is so easily consumed by life (ie your rent or mortgage, your food, your bills, and then some small luxuries to make it seem worth working) is pretty tough.

Even if there was a magic bullet that you could trade or invest in and immediately make money on, that still wouldnt be any good because you dont have any disposable income to invest or trade with, let alone money to buy the advice with (no good advice will ever be free).

The real problem, then, is that the vast majority of people in this world are restricted by the fact that they are beholden to a single fixed income that doesnt produce much disposable income.

So, knowing that, what can you do?

There are really three options:

You can try to increase the single fixed income. You can try to get promoted, work harder, or go work for a competitor. Whatever it takes to increase the salary youre on. And hey, thats fine. You should do that. Its a start, at least. But it comes with a problem: the more work you do, the more youll want to reward yourself for doing so – realistically, youll end up increasing the amount you spend to match the increase in the single fixed income.

Which kind of leads to option two – spend less than you make and thus increase the amount of disposal income you have to invest in other wealth building projects. Again, this is something you should do. Seriously: just do it. It will help you enormously in the long run. But still, I realise that this isnt something you want to hear. Its slow and takes a lot of discipline.

So, the third option – as I see it – is to increase the number of different incomes you have coming in by better leveraging your time. In fact, by doing this, youll also end up spending less (because youll be using your time to work on other projects rather than spending money) and, quite possibly, become a smarter person and in turn increase your main income too – smart people tend to get pay rises.

But what do I actually mean by leveraging your time to create different incomes? Is it really as easy as that?

Well, yes.

Alas, though, the hostess has just announced were preparing to land. I must pause for now. Indeed, below I can see the neatly organised villas with their sparkling blue backyard pools.

In the meantime, Id be interested to hear your thoughts about what it means to you to be wealthy? Do you already feel wealthy enough? Or do you have a definition of wealth that youre striving for? All thoughts are welcome.

As Im out of the office, I cant get access to the usual feedback inbox – so perhaps the best way for us to communicate at the moment is on our DR Facebook page, which you can find here – or on our Twitter page, which you can find here.

Sorry in advance if youre not one for either of those – but needs must.

Well pick this theme up again tomorrow

Best wishes,

Glenn Fisher
Associate Publisher

Opinion: Education and property tax relief

When Julia Dunn arrived at middle school, she learned something troubling about education in her community. Students from certain towns were well prepared in math, and students from some other towns were not. Some students had strong arts education in elementary school, and others did not. Some had studied foreign languages, and some had not. The preparation her peers received — or didn’t — in elementary school affected their choices in middle school and beyond. Not addressing this inequity when it is so obvious, she observed, sends the message that we support inequity.

Julia decided to do something about it. She ran for School Board, believing that she and her district had an obligation to make sure that all kids had access to comparable opportunities. This past year, as a student member of the Chittenden East Supervisory Union Board, Julia watched the successful unification of the Mt. Mansfield Modified Unified School District, which expanded her school community beyond the geographic confines of a town in an attempt to address these glaring educational inequities.

Sometimes it takes a young person to tell us what we need to hear.

Across Vermont, school boards are grappling with Act 46, the new legislation that provides financial support for districts that want to collaborate and come together to share resources to better provide for their kids. The need is real. Many of our communities have struggled with profound enrollment declines over the last 20 years, which have undermined educational quality and caused property taxes to rise faster than Vermonters can afford.

These are all our children, and we owe them the best we can provide, regardless of where they were born and in what town they live. And, when we invest in them today, we are investing in a stronger future for Vermont — a future with better educated, healthier and more employable Vermonters, and more resilient, independent, and affordable communities.

Serving kids well today requires more specialized expertise and coordination of services than our schools have previously had to provide. It also requires our commitment to be prudent about how we use our shared Education Fund. We need to use our scarce dollars where they matter most: supporting the interaction between our teachers and our children.

What does this mean for school boards and our communities? It means first and foremost, starting with our goals for our children. What do we want all our children to know and be able to do? How do we provide education in an equitable way, so that these goals are accessible to all our children?

In some regions, it may mean enlarging what we think of as our “community.” When small schools are part of a larger union, they become insulated from some of the year-to-year shocks to tax rates that are currently wreaking havoc on budgets in some of our smallest districts. Act 46 consolidates governance, not school buildings. Based on statewide patterns, small schools actually have a better chance of remaining open under these new governance structures. Without change, many of our smallest schools will close, and some are looking at increases in their tax rates in coming years of 40 to 60 percent. That’s not sustainable for kids, communities, or property taxpayers.

Most of all, what Act 46 does is provide school boards with tools they can use to take charge of their own destinies. The price of not changing how we deliver education in response to the decline in enrollment is borne statewide, and this price is squeezing out educational opportunities for our children, district by district, and watching property taxes continue to rise at unsustainable rates. The new law provides tax relief to communities who want to unite to protect their schools and enhance opportunities.

None of us wants declining enrollments and fiscal pressures. However we have them. The question we face is how we respond. This will not be easy work. While there are no easy answers, there are some better ones. And I feel confident that Act 46 provides some tools our communities can use to get there, enhance educational quality, and bring property tax relief to Vermonters.

As Julia and so many other students have pushed us to realize, a resilient school community is based on shared purposes and strong relationships, not town borders. I have faith in the ability of Vermonters to roll up their sleeves and work together to create local solutions.

Peter Shumlin of East Montpelier is the governor of Vermont.