© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Mayors Discuss COVID-19 Recovery Priorities

Vermont Mayors Coalition logo
Vermont Mayors Coalition

After months of grappling with the coronavirus, municipalities across the country are running out of money. The Vermont Mayors Coalition recently outlined their pandemic recovery priorities to keep their cities financially viable.
Every January as the state Legislature gavels into session the leaders of the eight incorporated cities in Vermont outline their shared priorities for the session. Their initial agenda was announced in January but Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says it was overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic.   "The virus has brought to the fore a number of urgent issues that matter for cities and downtowns right now and that we believe there’s actually an opportunity through rapid action by our leaders in Montpelier to strengthen over the medium and long term our precious Vermont cities and downtowns.”

Each mayor presented an issue exacerbated by the pandemic. Barre Mayor Lucas Herring said the coalition’s first priority is reimbursement for lost revenues if federal funding comes to the state.  “Collectively we strongly encourage that we have proactive advocacy from the legislature to continue to allocate portions of such funds that come through should they emerge to the municipalities.”

Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott noted that many municipalities had taken on debt for redevelopment projects.  “So we are requesting an automatic one year extension on the deadline for municipalities to incur debt in all Vermont TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts in order to protect our downtowns and help us be flexible and continue to keep them thriving.”

The third priority offered by Newport Mayor Paul Monette is reforming the state’s environmental development protection law, Act 250.  “It’s especially critical during this economic recovery to make it easier and to streamline the whole process so that we can urge development to start up once again now that things are reopening.”

Asked how much revenue the cities have lost, the group expressed the most worry over the implications for fiscal year 2021 and beyond.
“This is Lucas Herring  from the city of Barre.  We’re seeing about a half a million dollar shortfall this year. But it’s not just this fiscal year that we have issues with. It’s going to be with next year. The city of Barre is having a special budget meeting for FY ’21 to try to meet that shortfall. Otherwise you’re going to see a tax hike that isn’t sustainable.”
“This is Mayor Monette in Newport.  We furloughed about 18 or 20 people and that helped that budget for this fiscal year. So we’re looking at about a break even luckily. The big unknown for us is what’s going to happen next year.”
“And this is Mayor Fritz from Vergennes. We are actually going to end Fiscal Year ’20 with a smallish surplus. We’re worried about the future. We took some extreme cost cutting and spending measures and our fears are about next year in particular.”

Other priorities cited by the mayors include an escrow clinic for housing assistance and funding for mail-in balloting.


Related Content