Burlington Councilors Vote to Put Tax Increase and Bonds on City Assembly Ballot

  • File: Alicia Freese ©️ Seven days
  • Burlington City Hall

For the first time in three years, Burlington voters will consider approving a higher tax rate when they cast their ballots this town hall day.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the 4-cent tax rate hike was needed to address revenue shortfalls, pay for the city’s equity initiatives and combat record inflation rates.

Burlington city councilors also voted Monday to place two bonds on the March 1 ballot. A $23.8 million capital bond would replace aging fire trucks and shoddy sidewalks, and a $25.9 million spending plan would improve much of Main Street in the Funding District. downtown tax increase.

After some debate, councilors also approved a charter amendment that would remove the city’s power to regulate sex work.

Voters will also consider elections in all eight city wards and a school budget of $98.2 million, representing a 13.1% increase in spending per student.

Despite this, school officials predict a 7 percent to diminish school tax rate, which would offset the city’s increase and result in an overall tax reduction.

Still, affordability was a talking point on Monday night. Councilors and members of the public noted that the city’s recent reassessment has raised taxes for most homeowners and expressed concern that an increase in the tax rate will make living in Burlington even more expensive.

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At the same time, municipal services have become more expensive. Inflation in the United States increased by 7% between December 2020 and December 2021, the largest increase since 1981, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase translates to higher labor costs, Weinberger said, noting that the city’s four labor contracts are being negotiated this year.

The city has also created several new positions within the Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging department, including employees focused on public health.

Councilor Mark Barlow (I-North District) said many ratepayers are tightening their budgets and the city should follow suit. Councilman Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) said ratepayers still don’t know the cost of building a new high school in Burlington. The North Avenue building closed in the fall of 2020 after officials discovered carcinogenic chemicals in the air and building materials. Voters should consider a school bond in November.

Councilwoman Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) took a different view, noting that the rate of municipal tax growth will always be below the rate of inflation, as it has been every year since Weinberger took office. in 2012. Every department in the city could face cuts. if the item fails.

“None of us want to go to voters and ask for a tax rate increase,” Paul said, but “there are significant repercussions if we don’t.”

This could include the reduction of municipal staff. Councilwoman Joan Shannon (District D-South) said voting against the tax increase “is a vote against the city workers who have kept us all afloat during this pandemic.”

The vote eventually passed 10-2; Barlow and Dieng voted no.

The city will use coronavirus recovery funds to fill some of the gap, along with projected revenue from various municipal fees, such as permits. The increase in the tax rate will create approximately $2.2 million in new revenue.

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The capital obligation will also increase municipal taxes. The $23.8 million spending plan — which is a scaled-down version of the $40 million bond that failed in December — would repair bridges, address deferred maintenance on city buildings, replace the emergency communication equipment and more.

If passed, the owner of a median-priced home in the city — about $379,100 — would pay increasingly higher taxes over time, peaking at about $7.39 more per month over of the 2025 financial year.

The $25.9 million TIF requirement, however, would not raise taxes. The TIF allows municipalities to borrow money in the hope that infrastructure improvements created in the district will generate revenue to pay down debt. If passed, the tie would improve a six-block stretch of Main Street with stormwater management infrastructure, lighting and more.

The project is a continuation of the city’s ‘Great Streets’ program, which aims to create more walkable and cycle-friendly roads by building wider sidewalks, tree belts and cycle lanes. The last street in the city to get a makeover was Saint-Paul, in the fall of 2019.

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The TIF bond passed 11-1, with Councilor Perri Freeman (P-Central District), who opposes the TIF funding model, voting no. The capital bond also passed 11-1, with Dieng voting no.

Earlier in the meeting, councilors debated changing the sex worker charter after hearing dozens of people speak both for and against the proposed vote.

The testimony of opponents, however, was primarily based on the misconception that repealing charter language would decriminalize sex work in the city when, in fact, prostitution would remain a misdemeanor under state law. .

Some public commentators said repealing Burlington would be the first step to decriminalizing sex work, a concept Councilor Shannon said made her “increasingly uncomfortable”. Councilors Barlow and Dieng echoed Shannon’s concern, but others argued that the language of the charter is mysterious and outdated.

“There won’t be this city of violence created by this change,” said Councilman Freeman, who introduced the charter change last summer.

Shannon ultimately voted in favor of the ballot, along with 10 other councilors. Dieng voted the only no. Even if voters approve of the change, it would still require the approval of the state legislature and governor.

Also on Monday, councilors heard a presentation on redistricting, which could change city ward boundaries based on new census demographics. Members of an ad hoc committee presented their findings, concluding that many Burlingtonians want to preserve neighborhoods on the new district maps and they want to redesign Ward 8, a student-dominated neighborhood.

There was also consensus that voters would prefer eight wards to two councillors, for a total of 16 councillors, to the current configuration of eight wards and four districts. District seat holders each represent two wards, for a total of 12 councillors.

The board will review the report at a later date.


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