South Burlington officials hold informational meeting on Town Meeting Day ballot items
As next week’s Town Meeting Day approaches, Vermont communities are holding informational sessions to review questions that will appear on the ballot. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports on South Burlington’s proposals.
On Town Meeting Day, March 7th, South Burlington voters will decide whether to approve the city’s $55.2 million budget for FY 24. About $19.3 million would be raised by local property taxes.
City Manager Jessie Baker said the budget as presented accomplishes several key goals for the community.
“As we all know, we have significant inflation rate increases and cost of living increases. We had to take those into account as we built this budget. We also tried to be sensitive to the tax rate increase for our residents. With this budget we're also increasing our capacity to maintain our parks. It's something we heard a lot about through COVID. It also allows us to incrementally invest in our capital improvement plan. One of the stories with this budget is that through the COVID years we were budgeting very conservatively. We need to reinstate some of those positions that were not able to be funded during those lean COVID years. That includes restoring a police officer position and a deputy chief position within the police department as well as a firefighter position. The big addition in this budget that I do want to call out is the establishment of a second ambulance. We really need to add that second ambulance.”
Baker said the general fund budget means a higher tax rate.
“Bottom line the tax rate if this budget is approved will increase 5.75% or about two and a half pennies on the tax rate. So the average condo owner in the city would pay about $78.49. That's based on a $293,000 assessed value condo. The average homeowner, this would result in about $117 increase annually this year and that's for a $437,000 assessed value for the average home. I do want to note that while our budget is increasing 9% overall in expenditures, the non-property tax revenue is also increasing 12%. So that indicates where we're really trying to diversify prior revenue streams and not rely solely on the property tax dollars.”
There are several bond questions on the ballot. One asks voters to approve $33.8 million to finance capital improvements and upgrades to the Bartlett Bay Wastewater Treatment Facility, add capacity to the Airport Parkway facility and refurbish four pump stations. The Bartlett Bay treatment plant was built in 1970 and was last upgraded in 1999. Water Quality Superintendent Bob Fisher notes that the facilities run 24-7.
“They have invested in it so far and they are very top of the line facilities. But this one is from 1999 and very nervous with the equipment running as we speak because that is a long time for computers and whatnot to be running steady.”
The informational session Tuesday also reviewed a City Center Tax Increment Financing District bond question. Community Development Director Ilona Blanchard reviewed the boundaries of the district, established in 2012, and what the bond would help finance.
“The TIF district bond total amount is $15,086,430 divided between the four projects. The bulk of it is Garden Street. The East-West crossing are matched to a federal grant that we have secured. And then the Williston Road streetscape is a 50%. We have $800,000 in federal funds at the moment. And then City Center Park phase two, that's also 100% funding for that project. Before we bring a recommendation for a bond vote the city council staff develops a full model of the development. In fact, even to get approval from the state we develop a model. But that is then updated many times over the life of the TIF district to understand what types of revenues we would expect to see.”
South Burlington officials will hold another hybrid presentation on the Town Meeting Day ballot Monday at 6:30 p.m.