On February 7, 2024

Legislative Update: First flood recover bill

As we say goodbye to our first month of our Legislative Session 2024, bills are beginning to pass and Vermont’s current challenges are being further articulated. Many are flood related. Our first Flood 2023 Recovery bill to pass both chambers is S.160, a tax abatement (relief for taxpayers) bill. The bill covers an abatement in Vermont’s education property Tax made to any taxpayer who incurred more than 50% loss of value on a property, or whose property was unusable for more than 60 days due to damage or loss of access to utilities, or whose property had their primary structure condemned as a result of the flood. If a town has abated your property tax for one of these reasons, then this bill will allow the state to reimburse the town for that amount. 

The reimbursement will come from the Education Fund and is estimated to cost $1.1 million. Many flood impacted towns are facing significant revenue losses due to damaged homes and businesses — and this is an important step in helping reduce those losses. 

Any additional proposals which would affect the Education Fund will face tough head winds this session as the Legislature is looking at a double digit increase in the education property tax due to: rising costs of health care, a backlog of school construction and renovation, workforce shortages, an increase in crucial supports for students’ mental health and the loss of Covid federal money.

If a town has abated your 
property tax for one of these 
reasons, then this bill will allow the 
state to reimburse the town for that amount. 

In addition to our finance/ways & means committees, a number of other committees are addressing flood recovery — each committee’s work reflecting their jurisdiction. In Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs we have a large housing bill in the works that will address housing resiliency, loss of housing in flood plains, long term measures to incentivize building more housing outside flood hazard areas and a required disclosure that a building has to carry flood insurance for house buyers and renters. 

In the Senate Government Operations Committee, we are looking at flood recovery through a governmental lens: how to improve the government’s response to disasters. We have heard from a wide range of stakeholders including emergency management and services, town managers and clerks, select board members, our flood recovery officer and our agencies of natural resources, transportation and public safety.

This flood recovery bill is nearing completion and at the moment, includes: 

  1. The creation of the community resilience and disaster mitigation fund designed to award grants for municipal disaster mitigation projects; 
  2. Municipal public works personnel in the definition of emergency management personnel for the purposes of emergency response; 
  3. Allows municipal storm water utilities to modify their rates for run-off capacities to allow upgrades to their systems; 
  4. Creates the urban search and rescue team within the Department of Public Safety, enabling state recognition of these teams; 
  5. Requires keeping all Vermont-211 personal information, acquired from disasters, confidential except for coordinating disaster relief; 
  6. Creates a reverse E-911 policy and asks that the enhanced E-911 board provide a more effective VT-Alerts in large emergencies and to have VoIP service providers to notify their customers of these as well; 
  7. Requires Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) to review best management practices — the adequacies of early warning and evacuation orders, routes and emergency shelters and then publish their best practices for rebuilding after a disaster; 
  8. Requires VEM to publish best management practices for the placement and funding of local emergency shelters; 
  9. Requires VEM to ensure that interpretation services are being provided for our deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind community and to individuals with limited English proficiency for all state emergency communications; 
  10. Creates a chief climate resiliency officer in the department of public safety; and 
  11. Asks Vermont State University to explore creating a post-secondary disaster management program.

Sen. Clarkson can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 802-828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 802- 457-4627. To get more information on the bills which have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website: legislature.vermont.gov.

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