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Burlington Officials Hear Update On Reappraisals And Approve New City Attorney

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Pat Bradley/WAMC
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The city of Burlington, Vermont reappraised and raised property values this year, resulting in an increase in taxes for most residents and businesses. During this week’s meeting, city councilors were updated on the nature of appeals and waivers that are being requested.

In late 2017, the state mandated Burlington to begin a city-wide reappraisal because the common level of appraisal, a way Vermont assures each town pays a fair share to the state Education Fund, had dropped below 80 percent. City Assessor John Vickery said the reappraisal has led to a shifting of the tax burden. “Because of the increased market demand of residential properties and decreasing demand for commercial properties the value of residential properties increased at a higher rate. So this is an example of the shifting of the tax burden.”

Vickery says 74 percent of businesses that appealed received a deduction. But of nearly 1,500 residential appeals only about 33 percent were adjusted. Councilors discussed the results and implications of the reappraisal for over an hour. Ward 5 Democrat Chip Mason was concerned about the consultant that helped with the appraisal process. “I have heard nothing but extreme negative things from every constituent that’s reached out to me. You know what’s characterized a moderate increase of $404 that is not consistent with anything that I’ve heard from anyone in Ward 5. I’m hearing the thousands not $400. As you can imagine we’re getting the most emotional and frustrated emails I’ve received in ten years.”

City Councilors also considered the appointment of Daniel Richardson as the new city attorney. But Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul raised concerns about his requested residency exemption to allow him to live in Montpelier until his children complete school. “We are over time eroding the ability to have department heads that live in the city of Burlington. We’re setting a precedent and once we do that we now are making it so that anyone who has a child anywhere in Vermont will be able to apply for this.”

South District Democrat Joan Shannon countered by reading from the city code. “That rule says the city council with mayor presiding shall, not may, grant to a perspective appointee a personal hardship extension if one of the following circumstances is certified to exist: number one children in grades K-through-12 currently attending a Vermont school other than Burlington.”

Richardson also assured Ward 7 Independent Ali Dieng the exemption would be temporary. “Are you willing to maybe consider moving to Burlington once your children graduate from high school?”

Richardson: “Absolutely and my spouse has recently taken a job at UVM Medical Center. And so certainly we see our future in Burlington.”

Richardson’s appointment was ratified on an 8 to 2 vote.

Over the course of their meeting city councilors approved a measure authorizing the mayor to resolve litigation and execute a new development agreement for the CityPlace development. The council also referred proposed changes to the city’s Short Term Rental ordinance to committee for review and public hearings.

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