Thursday December 15, 2016
A public hearing was held on the City of South Burlington’s capital improvement program (CIP) December 5 at South Burlington City Hall. The purpose of the hearing was to give an overview of the program’s fiscal years from 2018-2027 and to give residents a chance to offer comments on amendments to the program which occurs annually. After hearing one public comment regarding concern over one of the proposed cuts, a $45,000 air compressor for the Fire Department, the council unanimously agreed to approve the CIP, but will revisit the item in question during budget development conversations.
The FY 2018-2027 CIP provides a road map to guide budget preparations based upon estimates for future projects, incorporation of council priorities, committee recommendations, adopted plans, and equipment and facility maintenance. At the November 21 council meeting, Project Director Ilona Blanchard and Deputy Finance Officer Martha Machard presented draft updates to the CIP. The first year of the CIP will be incorporated into the FY2018 budget. Some of the key updates to the general fund include the open space and natural areas task force recommendations (which will be funded by open space debt proceeds) and increased proposed FY2018 general fund sourced revenues of $775,000. The CIP also makes assumptions that an impact fee ordinance update will occur for recreation and transportation.
Following the overview in late November, department heads hit the highlights of their portion of the CIP. Library Director Jennifer Murray discussed the need to replace the bookmobile in FY 2020 to make it handicap accessible and better able to travel between summer camps and senior housing. The police department CIP involved the replacement of two marked cars, IT support server monitoring, mobile desk terminals, and online crime reporting. The fire department requested a pickup truck, turnout gear, a breathing air compressor, and on the ambulance side, a cardiac monitor.
After each department offered their budget guidance, Tom Hubbard commented that if all of the department head recommendations were to be incorporated into the FY 2018 budget, the figure would total $317,000 and would put the budget at a 5.25 percent increase, as opposed to the three percent the council had requested. As a result, various department cuts were presented at the December 5 meeting in order to bring the tax rate down to a 2.97 percent increase.
Although there was a 1.5 percent growth in the grand list last year, the airport tax settlement wiped that out. According to Hubbard, that 1.5 percent could have funded all of the proposed projects. Cuts were made in fire, highway and parks, police, recreation, and administration. Of most concern to the council was the air compressor for tanks at the Fire Department. According to Chief Brent, the tank could fail tomorrow or last another year, it’s difficult to know.
While the council ultimately approved the CIP, they requested additional information regarding the Veterans Memorial Park electrical upgrade ($35,000) and asked how that could be offset. One suggestion involved galvanizing community volunteers like electrical contractors, as well as citizens, to assist in executing the project. The electrical upgrade would allow the city to put on events like City Fest and Bikes and Bites without having to rent generators at the cost of $5,000 per event.
The council will also revisit the issue of the air compressor, possibly opting to add the item back into the coming year’s budget, thus bumping the tax rate above three percent.
Individuals interested in viewing the CIP in its entirety can find it at www.sburl.com.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent