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Burlington Board of Finance reviews proposed budget before submission to City Council

Burlington City Hall
Burlington City Hall

Among the items reviewed by the Burlington, Vermont Board of Finance this week was an update on the proposed 2024 city budget.

A final discussion of the proposal before its submission to the full city council came at Monday’s Board of Finance meeting. Mayor Miro Weinberger said although it is among the most challenging of the 12 he has been responsible for, the budget plan maintains several continuing themes.

“I do think we are coming to the end of the process here with continued investment in public safety. Another major theme in this budget: we are continuing our commitment towards a net zero future vision that the city has. And it is certainly a budget where we have worked hard to both maintain services I think Burlingtonians value and to recognize that these are volatile and challenging times for many of our constituents and we need to be very careful about new costs that we are imposing on them.”

Chief Administrative Officer Katherine Schad noted the most challenging factors include increased public safety costs, fleet costs, inflation, and cost of living increases for non-public safety staff.

“It is as you can see about a three to four percent increase over last year’s budget and it is just over $101 million. This is the General Fund. The proposed municipal tax rate, our proposal is that it go from 70.82 cents to 75.23 cents. It is just over a 6 percent increase.”

Continuing her PowerPoint, Schad noted there had been only minor changes in the proposal since the Board of Finance last reviewed it. Based on a request from a councilor she offered an overview of expense and revenue sources.

“Our revenues have come from you can see non-departmental: huge. That includes property taxes, franchisees, local option tax, gross receipts. And then on this next slide you can see the expenses. Fire and police make up 34 percent of the budget. And then if you look at DPW (Department of Public Works) and Parks that’s another 19 percent.”

North District Independent Mark Barlow, who had previously served on the Burlington School Board, questioned how school taxes factor into the proposed tax increase.

“The public looks at their tax bill and they don’t make the distinction of which part is municipal and which part is school and I know we know that school is about 70 percent. It helps to understand that greater context that this $163 increase that we’d be asking.”

Schad replied: “The latest information that I have from Nathan (Burlington School District Executive Director of Finance Nathan Lavery) at the school shows an impact on a $370,000 home that qualifies for Homestead is $207.”

Ward 7 Independent Ali Dieng said the city should work to lower tax increases in the budget.

“$370 a year from a median home taxpayer is already too much. Water rate’s going up. Electricity’s going up. Inflation. I think the city needs to do more investigating into reducing this budget this year. This from the perspective of a taxpayer.”

The Board of Finance is composed of the mayor and four city councilors. The city’s Chief Administrative Officer is a non-voting member.

The full city council is scheduled to consider the budget on Tuesday the 20th and Monday the 26th. The fiscal year begins on July 1st.

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