August 20, 2017

Vermont maintains top-notch bond ratings

By Erin Mansfield

For VT Digger

International credit rating agencies say the state of Vermont has a positive financial outlook and have once again given the state’s general obligation bonds some of the highest ratings available. Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings have reaffirmed the state’s Aaa and AAA ratings, respectively, which are the highest score available at those agencies, on the state’s bonds. Standard and Poor’s reaffirmed the state its AA+ rating, the second-highest available. The ratings mean that Vermont has the highest bond ratings of any state in the Northeast, according to Beth Pearce, the state treasurer. Vermont has had the Aaa with Moody’s since 2007, she said, and the AAA with Fitch since 2010.

“I think that the fact that our ratings are what they are and that we’ve maintained our ratings in all three rating agencies is something that’s a testament to the type of government and the type of proactive management that we have in this state,” Pearce said. The ratings are on the state’s general obligation bonds, which the state uses to borrow money for things like roads and new construction, but does not apply to the housing bond the state intends to issue this year, according to Adam Greshin, the commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management.

Greshin encouraged lawmakers and people in state government to read the reports each agency wrote accompanying the rating. “In many ways they’re our report card and they tell us what someone outside looking in sees, and the people outside in these reports are knowledgeable in how they conduct their business,” he said. Moody’s praised Vermont’s “strong fiscal management, a track record of running surpluses most years even when revenues do badly, modest debt, and a small but productive economy,” and Standard and Poor’s said Vermont has a “strong budgetary framework.” Fitch praised Vermont’s “conservative financial management, including prompt action to address projected budget gaps as they emerge, and maintenance of sound reserves” while also acknowledging economic growth that is “steady but below national rates.” All three rating agencies wrote in their explanations of the ratings that the state has above-average pension liabilities — money that needs to be paid or will need to be paid to retired teachers and retired state workers — but only Standard and Poor’s said the liabilities were enough to keep Vermont from getting the highest credit rating possible. “The state’s slower-than-average economic growth will continue to pressure the budget during our twoyear outlook horizon,” Standard and Poor’s wrote. “In addition, pension … liabilities remain high relative to those of state peers.” Reducing the pension liabilities “could translate into a higher rating,” the agency wrote. Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s both said Vermont has a demographic problem. “Vermont’s population of 624,594 has declined at an increasing rate in the past three years,” Standard and Poor’s wrote. “We anticipate that the relatively weak demographic trends in recent years will persist and continue to dampen the state’s economic growth potential.”

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Williston runner crosses Vermont in support of refugees

Observer courtesy photo Williston runner Olivia Pintair (left) with her father, Alex, and friend Mae Burris-Wells. The trio completed the Cross Vermont Trail this week to raise awareness and funds for refugees settling in Vermont.

Observer courtesy photo
Williston runner Olivia Pintair (left) with her father, Alex, and friend Mae Burris-Wells. The trio
completed the Cross Vermont Trail this week to raise awareness and funds for refugees settling
in Vermont.

Lauren Reed

Observer correspondent

Olivia Pintair can be forgiven if she had a moment. After months of planning and fundraising, the trio completing “Running for Refuge” was nearing the end of the trail. “I was actually running the last leg, and I came up this hill and rounded the corner and saw the bridge that went over the Connecticut River,” Pintair said.

“I just stopped running for a minute and took a minute to realize that we had done it. “I ran across the bridge, and it was a great feeling.” Pintair grew up in Williston and is an incoming senior at the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y. She started Running for Refuge with her friend Mae Burris-Wells this year to raise money and awareness for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. On Monday, she, her father Alex and Burris-Wells completed their goal of running 90.86 miles across Vermont. They each ran 10 miles a day on the Cross Vermont Trail, which begins in Burlington and ends in Newbury. “It was really amazing, a super fun adventure,” Pintair said. “I am really happy that I got to do it with my dad and my friend.” The trio started on Thursday — and with a day’s delay due to weather — crossed the bridge to hit the finish line Monday. “I think it seemed like a pretty big goal at first,” Pintair said. “Like with every goal, you have to keep going forward until you finally get to the bridge and you reach it.” In addition to the run, Running for Refuge also held a 5K at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in July and is working toward a goal of raising $5,000 for Vermont refugees. “The majority of the trail was on really beautiful dirt roads and trails,” Pintair said. “It was a great new perspective on a state that I have always lived in, but it was a beautiful new perspective.” In addition to enjoying Vermont’s scenic charms, the running trio also got motivation from fellow runners and those who saw them running by. “We got a lot of thumbs up as people were driving by,” Pintair said. “Whenever we stopped, people would ask about the project. It was a really great way to get the word out.” Part of spreading the word is encouraging others to take advantage of the Cross Vermont Trail and use it as their own “Run for Refuge.” “I hope to put together a how-to guide for people to fundraise and do this run themselves,” Pintair said. “I think this is definitely something that people can do. I would definitely recommend it.” Pintair is looking at running a different trail next year, hopefully in Burris-Wells’ home state of Massachusetts. “Doing this run was a challenge, but it made me realize even more the challenge that people go through just to survive,” Pintair said. “Even though this was a small part of supporting refugees, I hope it was a meaningful one.” For more information about Running for Refuge or to donate, go to runningforrefuge. com.

North Williston Road closed Saturday

North Williston Road will be closed Saturday from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. for a sewer connection, the Williston Department of Public Works reports. [Read more…]

Town leases out parcel for Maple Tree Place parking lot

Observer photo by Jason Starr Cypress Equities is leasing this parcel from the Town of Williston for construction of a parking lot to support Maple Tree Place businesses.

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Cypress Equities is leasing this parcel from the Town of Williston for construction
of a parking lot to support Maple Tree Place businesses.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard has agreed to lease about 1.3 acres of town-owned property at Maple Tree Place to the plaza’s owner, Texas-based Cypress Equities, for the construction of a 61-space parking lot.

[Read more…]

Goodwill to relocate to old Buttered Noodles spot

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

For those who love Williston’s Goodwill store, there will be a lot more to love come September. The store is relocating out of its spot on Harvest Lane next to Natural Provisions and into the spacious former Buttered Noodle’s children’s store location up the street.

[Read more…]

Solar interest eclipses all else

Observer contributed photo The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library will be handing out free solar eclipse viewing glasses during its eclipse viewing party Monday

Observer contributed photo
The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library will be handing out free solar eclipse viewing glasses during its eclipse viewing
party Monday

The library’s glasses were provided by a grant from STAR_NET, a project of the National Science Foundation that provides science resources for libraries. Library staff initially made the glasses available to patrons at the front desk. But they were taken up so fast that the staff had to remove the display in [Read more…]