Evaluation of Vermont state website

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Vermont.gov is the website for the state of Vermont.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngC
Budget P
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Usability
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Elected Officials
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Administrative Officials
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Ethics N
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Audits
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Contracts
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Lobbying P
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Public records P
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Taxes
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Transparency grading process


This website was reviewed on January 26, 2012.

The good

  • A state phone directory is posted.[1]
  • Elected officials are listed, with contact information available on their pages.[2]
  • Legislators are listed with contact information.[3][4]
  • Agencies are listed, with contact information available on their pages.[5]
  • Audits are posted.[6]
  • Budget recommendations are posted.[7]
  • Adopted budgets are posted but are not up-to-date.[8]
  • Tax information is available.[9]
  • Lobbyists are posted in a searchable database.[10]
  • Information on the Vermont Public Records Law is available.[11] Sample requests are buried in 2002 guide to the law.[12]
  • Bid opportunities are posted.[13]
  • Statewide contracts are posted.[14]

The bad

  • Adopted budgets are not up-to-date.[15]
  • Government-wide ethics information is not available.
  • Thorough information on how to make public records requests is neither clear nor easy to access.
  • No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying.

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "D-" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 51 out of 100.[16]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[17]

Vermont received an overall grade of D+, or 69%. It ranked 25 out of the 50 states.[18]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information D+
Political Financing B-
Executive Accountability D-
Legislative Accountability F
Judicial Accountability F
State Budget Processes B-
State Civil Service Management D+
Procurement B
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure B-
State Pension Fund Management B-
Ethics Enforcement Agencies F
State Insurance Commissions D+
Redistricting A

Transparency Legislation

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Recovery Vermont State Tracks federal stimulus spending 2011 http://recovery.vermont.gov/
Employee Wages State Employee wages 2008 http://miva.burlingtonfreepress.com/miva/cgi-bin/miva?SOVWageform.mv
Secretary of State State Campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure 2011 http://www.sec.state.vt.us/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=VT

Salaries

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Vermont and local governments in the state employed a total of 49,997 people.[19] Of those employees, 35,463 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $136,336,597 per month and 14,534 were part-time employees paid $12,340,190 per month.[19] More than 62% of those employees, or 31,221 employees, were in education or higher education.[19]

State Employee Benefits

State of Vermont employees receive many benefits in addition to their salary.[20]

Annual Leave

Employees accrue annual leave on a bi-weekly basis and are eligible to use annual leave after the first six months of employment. Eligibility to accrue annual leave and the rate at which you accrue is based on the position and bargaining unit, and information regarding specific number of days is not available on the State's Human Resources website.[21]

Holidays

State employees are granted time off with pay for 11 legal holidays and one floating holiday. Subject to the operating needs of the department or agency, employees may be granted the day after Thanksgiving off with pay.[21] The holidays are[22]:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • President's Day
  • Town Meeting Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Bennington Battle Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day - floating holiday
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Personal Leave

Personal leave is provided to employees in classified service.[21] Non-management employees may earn at the rate of ten (10) hours of personal leave for not using more than eight hours of sick leave per quarter. Employee's eligibility to accrue personal leave and the rate at which it is accrued is based on your position and bargaining unit.[21]

Sick Leave

Paid Sick leave is provided for absence from work with pay for personal or family illness or injury or medical appointments. Upon appointment to the classified service, employees are credited with a bank of 48 hours of sick leave that employees may use during the first 6 months of service.[21] Employee's eligibility to accrue sick leave and the rate at which it is accrued on a bi-weekly basis is based on your position and bargaining unit.[21]

Insurance

Employees may choose among four health insurance plans: a PPO, a POS, a SafetyNet plan and the Total Choice plan, which is an indemnity plan[23] Those plans include prescription drug coverage[24] and vision insurance.[25]

2010 premiums are as follows:[26]

Plan Coverage Total Premium State Share Employee Share
Total Choice Plan One Person $335.07 $268.06 $67.01
Total Choice Plan Two People $670.14 $536.11 $134.03
Total Choice Plan Family $921.45 $737.16 $184.29
Select Care POS Plan One Person $280.43 $224.34 $56.09
Select Care POS Plan Two People $560.86 $448.69 $112.17
Select Care POS Plan Family $771.18 $616.94 $154.24
Healthguard PPO Plan One Person $300.54 $240.43 $60.11
Healthguard PPO Plan Two People $601.08 $480.86 $120.22
Healthguard PPO Plan Family $826.50 $661.20 $165.30
SafetyNet Plan One Person $196.47 $157.18 $39.29
SafetyNet Plan Two People $392.94 $314.35 $78.59
SafetyNet Plan Family $540.30 $432.24 $108.06

Dental insurance is provided to at no cost to employees and their eligible dependents.[27]

Employees receive long term disability insurance at no cost.[28]

The Life Insurance benefit is two times the employee's annual base salary, rounded down to the nearest $100. The Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) benefit is an additional two times the employee's annual salary. Employees pay 25% of the premium. The State pays 75% of the premium. Employee cost for 2009 is $.0266 per $1,000 of coverage. Based on the example above with a benefit of $50,600, the employee cost would be $1.33 per payday.[29]

Pensions

Vermont has three public pension plans:

A recent study by economists Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concluded that the Vermont pension funds will run out of money in 2023.[30]

Vermont State Teachers' Retirement System

The state's largest pension plan, the Vermont State Teachers' Retirement System was created in 1947 and is governed by Vermont Statute Title 16, Chapter 55.[31] The membership as of June 30, 2009 included 10,799 active, 2,655 inactive, 721 terminated vested and 5,910 retired members.[31]

Vermont State Employees' Retirement System

Vermont State Employees' Retirement System was created in 1944 for state employees and is governed by Vermont Statute Title 3, Chapter 16.[32] As of June 30, 2009, the system had 8,095 active, 939 inactive, 798 terminated vested and 4,797 retired.[32]

Vermont Municipal Employees' Retirement System

Vermont Municipal Employees Retirement System (VMERS) was created in 1975 and is governed by Vermont Statute Title 24, Chapter 125. It offers defined contribution and deferred compensation plans.[33] As of June 30, 2009, there were 6,533 active, 2,015 inactive, 554 terminated vested and 1,538 retired members.[33]

Retiree Health Benefits

State employees hired after July 1, 2008, must work 10 years before they receive retiree health benefits, at which time the state will pay 40% of the premium at that point, escalating to 60% after 15 years of service, and finally 80% after 20 years.[34] For employees hired prior to that, the state pays 80 percent of medical premiums for the employee and spouse regardless of time of service.[34]

Contribution Increases

The legislature increased the employee contribution rate for all members of the Teachers Retirement System from 3.54% of compensation to 5%. Member contribution rates for the Vermont Municipal Retirement System for FY 2011 for group C members rose from 9% to 9.5%.[35]

Employees vest after 5 years of service.[36]

Eligibility

A 2010 law raised the retirement age for current employees. Those who are more than five years away from being eligible for normal retirement in 2010 must be 65 years old or have their years of service and age total 90. Previously, the state's retirement age had been 62 years or 30 years of service at any age. [37]

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States,[38] the American Enterprise Institute[39] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[40]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$461,551 $3,602,752 $3,300,000

Public Records

The Public Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Vermont.

The Vermont Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Vermont FOIA procedures.

External links

References

  1. Vermont.gov, "Phonebook," accessed January 26, 2012
  2. Vermont.gov, "Statewide Officials," accessed January 26, 2012
  3. Vermont.gov, "Representatives," accessed January 26, 2012
  4. Vermont.gov, "Senators," accessed January 26, 2012
  5. Vermont.gov, "Agencies," accessed January 26, 2012
  6. Vermont.gov, "CAFR," accessed January 26, 2012
  7. Vermont.gov, "Budget Recommendations," accessed January 26, 2012
  8. Vermont.gov, "Budget Acts," accessed January 26, 2012
  9. Vermont.gov, "Department of Taxes," accessed January 26, 2012
  10. Vermont.gov, "Lobbyists," accessed January 26, 2012
  11. Vermont.gov, "Right to Know," accessed January 26, 2012
  12. Vermont.gov, "A Matter of Public Record," accessed January 26, 2012
  13. Vermont.gov, "Bid Opportunities," accessed January 26, 2012
  14. Vermont.gov, "Contract Information," accessed January 26, 2012
  15. Vermont.gov, "Budget Acts," accessed January 26, 2012
  16. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  17. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  18. Vermont Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 2008 Vermont Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  20. Benefit Plans
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 Paid Leave
  22. Holiday Schedule
  23. Medical Plans
  24. Prescription Drugs
  25. Vision Care
  26. Health Plan Premiums
  27. Dental Assistance Plan
  28. Long Term Disability Insurance
  29. Life Insurance
  30. New Mexico, Study: NM state pension plan will run out of money in 13 years, Sept. 9, 2010
  31. 31.0 31.1 Vermont State Teachers' Retirement System
  32. 32.0 32.1 Vermont State Employees' Retirement System
  33. 33.0 33.1 Vermont Municipal Employees Retirement System
  34. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named trillion
  35. National Conference of State Legislators "Pensions and Retirement Plan Enactments in 2010 State Legislatures" July 19, 2010
  36. Retirement Planning
  37. The Associated Press "A look at state pension changes" Sept. 15, 2010
  38. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  39. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  40. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)