Voting participation was the highest in years.

City and School Budgets Pass, New Councilors Elected; Voter Participation At a Record High

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Sunday March 14, 213

March 5, 2013 marked a day of change for the citizens of South Burlington.

From a financial perspective, residents will see a change in the property tax rate with the approval of the city budget of $30.85 million and the two-part school budget of $42.98 million.

Twenty-eight percent (3,482) of the city’s 12,416 registered voters voted in this election, one of the highest city election turnouts in almost 20 years, City Clerk Donna Kinville said. She noted that voting rates tend to be higher during presidential primaries and elections, or when there are special articles on the ballot.

Kinville reviewed city election trends between 1994 and 2013, and determined that 2013 had the highest voter turnout in that time. Last year, voter participation approached 24 percent.  In 2008, total voter participation was only slightly over 17 percent. 2006 was the closest year in the number of votes cast--3,382 votes, a 23 percent voter turnout--very close to this year’s cast of 3,482 votes.

There was a record number of absentee ballots this year as well-- about 700--more than twice the number that the city usually receives, Kinville added.
The numbers speak for themselves: SB residents are paying close attention to city happenings this year.

Shifting to the council candidate votes, newly-elected Councilors Chris Shaw and Pat Nowak won by a wide margin. Shaw defeated Sandy Dooley, 6-year councilor and former chairwoman, with 67 percent of the votes cast (2,268 votes). These results stand in stark contrast to 2012, when Shaw ran against Councilor Pam Mackenzie and Planning Commissioner Tracey Tapley (now Harrington). He lost to Mackenzie by 4 votes.

Nowak defeated Paul Engels for the 2-year term with 67 percent of the votes cast (2,243 votes).

Numbers aside, at the first council meeting, all councilors agreed it was time to put the election behind them and invest their energy in the city’s future. Councilor Helen Riehle called for respect for those who served, continue to serve, and are newly serving.

“We’re putting ourselves out there. We took a few snowballs. We all love this city,” Councilor Pat Nowak added.

Kinville hopes that participation in the March 2014 election will be as large as this year.  She stated, “There is nothing as exciting as being at the polls and watching democracy in action.”

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent