The Burlington City Council has made its final decisions on whether three charter changes will be placed on the Town Meeting Day ballot. One will not be forwarded to voters.
City councilors and committees have been reviewing three potential charter changes for voters to consider in March. Ballots must be printed in early February so earlier this week final public hearings and council review of each charter amendment was held. One would allow a tax of up to one cent per $100 of assessed property value to fund the Housing Trust Fund. Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine explained that it is not a new tax. “It is an existing tax that was approved by the voters of Burlington, not overwhelmingly but just slightly, in 1989. It was in light of the fact that the federal government was retreating from housing. And we wanted to come up with a local funding source that would support affordable housing. So it was approved as a penny. But over time, because of the revenue neutrality requirement of our charter, it hasn't been able to keep up with growing Grand List value in Burlington and so the yield to support affordable housing hasn't grown as much over time as it would have otherwise. So this is fixing that problem by getting it to a full penny. It's also locking it in so that it will in fact track with inflationary growth in our Grand List.”
Among those speaking during the public hearing was Ericka Redic, a Ward 4 independent candidate and landlord who believes the proposal will increase rental prices. “All of these policies that you're couching as addressing affordability make it more unaffordable. And I would really encourage you to actually think about the second and third order effects.”
Sarah Carpenter, a housing advocate and Ward 4 Democratic candidate, supported the charter change. “This small amount of seed money is really instrumental in drawing down those federal dollars, those state dollars. Sometimes you need that small support to draw down the big dollars.”
Councilors approved placing the question on the ballot on a 10 to 2 vote.
No one spoke during the public hearing regarding the second charter change, which addresses a discrepancy over when local and state ballots are prepared and available. Councilors unanimously approved placing the item on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
The third change would allow legal residents who are not citizens to vote in local elections. Ward 8 Independent Adam Roof offered a resolution to refer it to the Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee for further consideration and leave the question off the March ballot. “I'm certainly frustrated in making this motion but I'm doing so after consultation with fellow councilors and members of the community from across our city. Over the last several weeks or so while planning a public education campaign for this issue it became clear to me and others that on all sides of this issue there was a growing level of misunderstanding and confusion when it comes to the facts certainly related to this charter change. My personal intention with this motion is to put the initiative at some point in a better position to pass and given how the public discussion has developed as of late I don't believe that this time is this coming March.”
The motion to send the proposal back to committee passed on a 10 to 2 vote.