BURLINGTON, Vt. – Next Tuesday, Burlington voters will head to the polls for Town Meeting Day.
Along with voting for a candidate in the Presidential Primary, Burlington will vote on four local items. Each question is listed below.
Question 1: Approval of 2021 School Budget
“Shall the voters of the school district approve the school board to expend $91,525,288 which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year? It is estimated that this proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $16,920.53 per equalized pupil. This projected spending per equalized pupil is 5.66% higher than spending for the current year.”
Question 2: Increase in Public Safety Tax Rate
“Pursuant to Sec. 102a of the City Charter, shall the police and fire tax rate be increased by $0.03 so that the public safety tax rate (one component of the overall city tax rate) for FY21 is increased from $0.0807 to $0.1107, a 3.5% increase to the FY20 overall city tax rate, for the operations of a third ambulance and other public safety needs?”
Question 3: Proposed Charter Change – Housing Trust Fund
“Shall the Charter of the City of Burlington, Acts of 1949, No. 298 as amended be further amended to add a new section 102f as follows:
102f Annual assessment for Housing Trust Fund use authorized.
The city council shall annually assess upon the property grand list of the city to assist in meeting the appropriation made for distributions and uses of the Housing Trust Fund as set forth in Article 18-404 of the Code of Ordinances a tax that will, in the judgment of the city council, be sufficient to assist in meeting such appropriation, but the rate shall not exceed one cent upon the dollar of the property grand list, except when a larger rate shall be authorized by the legal voters of the city. The tax shall not be included within the limitations of the amount of tax for city purposes prescribed in section 99 of this chapter.?”
Question 4: Proposed Charter Change – Local Election Dates
“Shall the Charter of the City of Burlington, Acts of 1949, No. 298, as amended, be further amended to change the timelines in Article 2 Elections and City Meetings–City Elections, Section 3; Article 3 Warnings, Section 6; and Article 8 Method of Conducting Elections, Section 22, for submission of petitions relating to charter changes, ballot questions, and candidates in special elections (all elections other than the city annual meeting) so that local ballots are available during state elections at the same time as state ballots, forty-five (45) days prior to the election?”
Burlington School District’s budget was presented to the city council in January. It would cause a 7.4 percent increase in the property tax rate, compared to just 4.86 percent last year. The hike was originally going to be 10.5 percent.
“We’ve worked really hard to try and reduce that tax impact by applying a million dollars of surplus,” Superintendent Yaw Obeng said in January. “We’ve done some reductions to the district, at the same time maintaining the same level of programming for next year.”
At that same meeting, Ward 1 Councilor Sharon Bushor (I) said that with the public safety tax increase also on the table, there’s concern among constituents.
“They’re just an increase away from making other choices about where they live,” Bushor said. “I see the bind you’re in, I see the fixed costs that are driving your budget.”
The public safety tax increase was discussed at a Ward 4 & 7 NPA meeting on Wednesday.
Fire Chief Steven Locke said that over the past two years, the city has had 460 calls it couldn’t handle because ambulances were busy on other calls. If the question passes, Burlington would get a new ambulance and nine additional firefighters.
“We have reached the point where we need another community to come in and provide ambulance service for us on average more than once a day, we don’t have capacity,” Locke said. “Our two ambulances are busy, and it means someone else has to come in and when that happens, there’s ultimately a delay in service.”