Burlington City Council passes $78 million budget with large cut in police force

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Burlington City Council passed the 2021 city budget late Tuesday night after hours of back-and-forth on amendments that proposed additional cuts to city departments.

The finalized budget includes a 30 percent reduction in the number of uniformed police officers approved in a resolution early Tuesday morning.

Three Progressives on the council — Jane Stromberg, Jack Hanson and Perri Freeman — voted against the budget after amendments to trim the training and travel budgets for the planning, public works, city treasurer, city attorney and other offices failed.

Stromberg, who introduced of the amendments, said the police budget cuts and other reforms weren’t enough.

“I am just uncomfortable by the fact we keep bringing that up when we are talking about the budget today and these line items, they add up, they are incredibly important and there are so many systemic changes that could’ve been made,” Councilor Stromberg said.

Frustration over the proposed amendments — and the time spent debating them — was evident, especially among Democrats.

“To be debating $30, $50 and $500 amendments all night long on a $200 million budget is the most absurd thing I have been through,” said Councilor Joan Shannon (D).

As the clock winded toward midnight, Mayor Miro Weinberger noted that a city government shutdown would be unavoidable if the budget failed to pass.

An amendment calling for city employees making $100,000 or more to take a voluntary 10 percent pay cut or a reduction in salary to $95,000 fell one vote short of passage. Weinberger was critical of the proposal, saying the city’s higher-paid employees have already taken a pay cut of sorts.

“The pension and healthcare payments expected of all employees are going up this year, every employee in the city except for that small group of employees is getting a pay increase that more than offsets that,” Weinberger said. “The top earning city employees will get frozen, and they will have more of their paycheck withdrawn.”

Further details on the 2021 city budget and the various amendments discussed Tuesday night can be found here.

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