Green Up organizers say annual event will go on
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | March 07,2014
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo ¬ Members of the Mill River Union High School National Honor Society and friends were busy on Green Up Day along Alfrecha Road in North Clarendon. Samantha Bevier, left, and her sister Ellen Bevier carry up a tire and other trash. 05/05/12
MONTPELIER — Despite the loss of significant funding from a trio of businesses, organizers of Vermont’s Green Up Day are confident they will continue the annual tradition that has come to represent the state’s commitment to the environment.
Melinda Vieux, president of the nonprofit organization Green Up Vermont, said the group has suffered recent hits to its funding. Three Vermont companies — Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters — have ended their corporate sponsorships because of changes to rules governing charitable giving.
Together, the lost funding leaves a nearly $30,000 hole in Green Up Vermont’s $125,000 budget, according to Vieux. About 66 percent of that funding comes from business sponsorships, 17 percent from cities and towns, and 14 percent from the state. Only 1 percent comes from individual donors.
Launched in 1970 by former Gov. Deane Davis, Green Up Day was run by the state until 1979, when former Gov. Richard Snelling pushed to separate it from state government.
Green Up Vermont was formed and given $8,600 and office space each year until 2006, when the amount was raised to $10,550.
The loss of major funding from three of Vermont’s most successful companies puts the program at risk, according to Vieux, and threatens to drastically reduce the amount of litter picked up each year on the first Saturday in May.
Since 2009, a total of $54,000 a year in funding from business sponsorships has been lost, she said.
Still, Vieux said she remains optimistic that Green Up Day will continue. She reached out to lawmakers early for help.
“We went to the state … before we were ready to close the door,” she said. “We are in good shape for two years. We are definitely on for 2014 and we are definitely on for 2015.”
She added, “Some folks were really relieved that we weren’t closing the doors and saying we need help.”
Rep. Janet Ancel, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, offered a sympathetic ear. The Calais Democrat pushed a bill through her committee to provide a check box on Vermont state income tax forms allowing residents to easily donate funds. That bill, H.683, cleared the House on Feb. 28 and awaits action in the Senate.
If it is signed into law, it won’t take effect until January 2015, and Green Up Vermont won’t see those funds until June 2015.
“We’re not looking at that as ‘Oh this is the solution,’” Vieux said. “There needs to be a mix of support to keep Green Up Day going in the future. So, we’re not putting all of our eggs in that check-box basket.”
The check box on tax forms will send a message about the need for both volunteers and funding, Vieux said. But additional funding will also be needed. She said the group is seeking a boost in the amount it receives from the state.
“The folks that I’ve spoken with certainly feel that it’s reasonable,” she said.
But whether that will translate into more funding is unclear.
Martha Heath, D-Westford, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said some testimony has been taken on the issue. However, the committee has yet to discuss it at length.
“We haven’t started discussing that part of the budget yet so I can’t tell you what the committee’s thoughts will be,” she said.
Heath said the committee wants to know how much revenue the tax form check box is expected to generate. The committee will devote more time to the issue following the town meeting break, she said.
“It’s a challenging budget year, so I’m not sure what we’ll decide to do,” Heath said. “I certainly support Green Up Day and I think it’s an important tradition in Vermont. I need to look at the balance sheet more carefully and think about whether there are some other ways that we might solve the issue.”