Front Porch Forum - Winter

Responses to Front Porch Forum Post Asking About Ballot Items

Item #2

Not sure if it’s accurate to say that the increase is mainly for maintaining core municipal services. This proposed municipal tax increase is geared more toward having the ability to pay salary increases of both firefighters and police officers. Here is an example of salary/wage increases for firefighters: for FY19 2% wage increase (retroactive to 7/1/18) – FY20 2.5% – FY21 and FY22 3%. To your questions are they referring to core downtown, the answer is NO.

Here are other angles of this issue that I feel like are problematic.

Every 5 years, the city holds negotiations with city employee unions. No city councilors participate in those bargainings. The city attorney (appointed by the mayor) is the lead representative of the administration in those negotiation processes. The council does receive periodic oral bargaining updates in executive sessions from the city attorney before ratifying new contracts for union members. Let me be clear here, I have nothing against unions, I think it’s critical for city employees, all employees to organize in order to protect their rights as workers. My problem is with elected officials (representatives of neighborhood taxpayers) who seek and receive political campaign endorsements from the unions that they are then called to ratify their contracts.

The votes by the council to increase the municipal tax rate passed by a vote of 10 – 2. I voted against it for these reasons.

A) The administration did not work with city departments to find cost savings within city departments.
B) We already have $70 million on the backs of taxpayers for the BHS bond and another $30M for the utility (storm water) bond.
C) We have a projected spending per equalized pupil of 6.31% higher than spending for the current year for the FY20 school budget.
D) Burlington Telecom has been sold, the sale may have over $6 Million in revenue for the city.

I will be voting NO for #2.

Item #3

Ballot item number #3 has two major components:

The Planning Director appointed by the Mayor. Currently, the Planning Director responds to the planning commissions therefore there is no accountability to the Mayor or the council. Please note all other department heads in the city are appointed by the mayor except for the Planning Director who works with almost all other Department heads on a daily basis to plan and execute projects. I personally don’t think the Mayor appointing the planning director is a bad idea.
Everyone in this community should welcome having a one stop shop where you could go and get all your permitting needs in order to complete upgrades, construction in your home. Even city staff found the aspect of going to many places to get a permit not very efficient. I think it has been an ask from residents, builders and developers for years now.

I will be voting YES for #3.

Item #4

Our Church Street Marketplace (CSMP) was established in 1981 and has become an asset for the city of Burlington. All assets need to be marketed, strengthened and polished. Over the years, The CSMP, a city department has been functioning greatly without a penny from taxpayers but simply with federal funds for the capital improvement plan and levy tax from Church Street property owners and marketplace businesses.

Knowing that municipalities are more and more losing funding from our federal Government, knowing that online sales are increasingly taking over retail sales, knowing that our local businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy, knowing that our businesses are an important part of our tax base, I think it is important that we find ways to strengthen our downtown and support our downtown businesses.

I am opposed to this Downtown Improvement District Proposal (DID) as the DID proposal is rushed, therefore it did not get adequate community input. According to the DID phase-1 report prepared by the Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), only 75 stakeholders participated in an interview or focus group.

Over 1000 people responded to the online survey to express their thoughts on DESIRED improvements in our downtown. And yet here is a proposed DID charter change language going to our voters without any well vetted community input. Not to mention that this charter change language did not provide case scenarios or options for our community members to choose from. Let’s not forget the work well done by CEDO providing at least 4 options with multiple details for the community to choose from specific to the redevelopment of Memorial Auditorium. One can argue that Charter Change ballot item language is different from development ballot item language, but what they have in common is you cannot design democracy or anything without a public referendum.

I would have voted Yes if it was proposed as an advisory ballot item, not a mandate.

I am voting No for #4.

Item #5

For the ” Business Personal Property Tax” (BPPT)

Every business will still pay taxes. Here it’s important to refer to the title of this ballot item Personal Property Tax. The State of Vermont permits towns and municipalities to tax business personal property. The cities of Burlington and Winooski are the only municipalities in Chittenden County currently imposing a tax on personal property with personal property (business equipments, furnitures etc.) assets estimated at $45,000 or more. The City of Burlington collects over $1.2 million in revenue yearly from this tax. The City anticipates eliminating this Business Personal Property Tax starting in 2026 while exploring how revenue from the Personal Property Tax might be replaced, and if there are alternative more equitable means of assessing the business personal property tax. City leaders are committed to business growth and fostering a climate and tax structure that encourages growth in a responsible manner. Small businesses are the backbone of Vermont’s economic vitality. Supporting them in our city is supporting the economic growth of our community and state.

I will be voting Yes for #5

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