The Burlington City Council passed a budget Monday evening. In presenting his formal request for passage, the mayor said the plan includes strategic investments in public safety, infrastructure and sustainability — without resulting in a tax increase.
The $190 million fiscal plan for 2018 increases infrastructure funding to improve streets, sidewalks, waterlines and the Bike Path. A new $500,000 Early Learning Initiative creates grants to fund child care. The budget will expand the CommunityStat program that coordinates Vermont’s largest city’s opioid response. It also adds personnel in the police, fire and public works departments.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says the budget is a result of years of work to improve the city’s financial position. “We were able to make new investments in public safety, in our kids, in infrastructure and more. And we were able to do all that while keeping property tax rates at a level overall that is just point-2 percent greater than it was three years ago. We really had success growing new revenues, controlling costs and making the cost of government less expensive in a number of key areas through the work we’ve been doing on pension reform, improve our credit rating, and all that culminated in I think a very successful budget.”
The second-term Democrat notes that numerous long-term policy initiatives have come together in this budget. “We have built up an unassigned fund balance which is essentially meaning that the city is in the black to a degree that exceeds a target that we set several years ago. So that freed up considerable amounts of capital for making capital investments and one time investments.”
The budget will allow the hiring of 3.5 new police officers and three new firefighters, the first increases in those departments in 15 years. The Department of Public Works will add 1.5 positions.
City Council President Jane Knodell says there were some small items the panel adjusted but overall the city found a way to enhance services without raising the property tax. “We’ve got money that will sustain the foot patrols of the police and that is very very important to quality of life in the center city. Number two the city and taxpayers are helping to keep the street outreach program going. That’s a program that helps people that are out living on the street or close to homelessness and helping them transition into some better situation. And finally we’ve got a nice program, a new program, to support early learning. And that program is essential to so many families that I represent. So from the people I represent this is a very good budget.”