News from VTSU is disheartening

The news of moving to an all-digital library and changes to the sports programs at Northern Vermont University-Johnson is disheartening. Making sure the state college system is relevant, thriving and adequately funded is very important to me, our community and the businesses in Lamoille County.

How we get there, and the messaging that accompanies it, is important to the future success of Vermont State University. Enrollment is what will make or break the university. The ability of the state to keep these increased funding levels will not last forever, but for now we are in a good place.

The investment in our state colleges system has come a long way from when there was a proposal to close the Johnson campus. This year the governor recommended the state budget direct $78.2 million for Vermont State Colleges. Broken down, this is $48 million in annual appropriation, an increase of $2.5 million over 2023. There is $10 million in one-time funding for capital improvements, and $9 million in one-time bridge funding to implement the transformation plan. There is also $10 million in one-time funding to pilot a two-year tuition reduction at Community College of Vermont for students enrolled in specific programs. I support these increased investments.

There are also federal funds directed to the colleges through a Congressionally directed spending and community project totaling just over $8 million. This includes $6.3 million for the nursing program to support infrastructure expansion, $850,000 to support semiconductor technician apprenticeships in partnership with Global Foundries, $188,000 to support the full or partial removal of the Glen Brook Dam on the Castleton University campus, and $750,000 to support energy efficiency renovations at the Alexander Twilight Theater at the NVU-Lyndon campus.

In the House, the 2024 budget work is just getting started. There will be opportunities to participate across the state, where individuals can talk about what is important to them and to their community. You can reach out to me, directly to the appropriations committee in writing, or at an upcoming listening session.

Last week the House Committee on Human Service spent most of its time taking testimony on H.171, a bill that overhauls adult protective services. Like every bill that is introduced, there will be lots of changes as the bill moves through the process. In this case, that is who should be a mandatory reporter, when they need to report abuse, and how they report it.

We have heard from witnesses who have brought substantive changes that will greatly improve how the state protects vulnerable older Vermonters and individuals with developmental disabilities.

Rep. Rey Garafano and I have been meeting with the commissioner of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and her staff on next year’s budget. We spent a great deal of time going over individual line items and will be making recommendations in what is called a budget letter from the committee to the House Committee on Appropriations. We will propose increasing funding to Meals on Wheels and other home- and community-based service providers. These funding recommendations are not included in the governor’s 2024 budget but we feel they are important.

Dan Noyes, a Democrat from Wolcott, also represents Belvidere, Hyde Park and Johnson in the Vermont House of Representatives.