Thursday March 10, 2016
It was a cold, crisp bluebird Vermont day when residents headed to the polls Tuesday March 2, 2016 to vote on local municipal and school district leadership, budgets, articles, and presidential candidates. Participation was high for a city election, with a turnout of 50.07% of registered voters, or 6,195 ballots cast for the South Burlington ballot items.
Absentee balloting accounted for about 10 percent of the voting list and 1 out of every 6 ballots were cast by early or absentee balloting. City Clerk Donna Kinville said, “The last presidential primary (2012) we only had about 378 absentee ballots requested, this year it was just shy of 1,200.”
Even in a presidential primary year, the numbers were significantly higher than in the past. Kinville recalled that in 2012, only 2,846 ballots were cast and in the past eleven years, the city has averaged just 2,456 voters each year.
The presidential primary turnout was 51.24% of the city’s 12,372 registered voters, with 72% voting the Democratic ballot and 28% voting the Republican ballot. Bernie Sanders garnered the most votes at 3,671. On the Republican side, John Kasich collected the majority of votes with 695.
“It was quite exciting to see the turnout for this election, there was never a time when someone was not in the polling area voting!” Kinville said.
On the school board side, veteran board member and State Legislator Martin LaLonde, who ran an uncontested race for another term as school director, garnered 4,610 votes while Bridget Burkhardt, who also ran unopposed, received 4,510 votes.
Four candidates were vying for two spots on the city council. Chris Shaw, who has served on the council for the past three years sought re-election and ran against long time DRB member and current chair Tim Barritt. Barritt won with 3,150 votes compared to Shaw’s 2,272. Incumbent Meaghan Emery prevailed over George Donovan for the two year seat. Emery garnered 3,593 over Donovan’s 1,956 votes.
Both the school and city budgets passed. The city budget passed by 1,661 votes while the school budget passed by a healthy margin of 2,322.
Voters also passed the city’s plan to re-allocate ½ cent of the current 1 cent on the tax rate of the city’s open space fund toward maintenance of city parks. Currently, the open space fund has a balance of about $300,000 and roughly $285,000 goes in each year from the 1 cent on the tax rate. The loan for $1.3 million would allow the city to get a jumpstart on projects rather than having to wait ten years for that amount to accrue. This item passed by 2,273 votes.
The school board had two ballot items aside from the budget and election of officers: a bond vote and the establishment of a capital reserve fund. The bond, in the amount of $2,500,000 to be financed over 20 years, passed by 2,101 votes. Projects to be financed are primarily due to ADA compliance issues and hazardous materials remediation at the middle and high school. Some of the projects include the Munson Field project (synthetic turf replacement, replacing the track surface, safety net at the end of the field, and field event area upgrade), window replacements, restroom upgrades, flooring, carpet, and asbestos floor tile replacement at the middle school, removing the high school gym ceiling in conjunction with roof replacement, and coating the roof over the gymnasium.
Establishment of a capital reserve fund for the district ($300,000) to allot money to be used in future years, thus avoiding cost fluctuations and Act 46 threshold implication passed by 2,183 votes (69.30 percent to 30.70 percent).
Kinville added, “I wish that every local election could have this turnout, or even greater, because I feel that the city’s ballot is where their “voice” has the most impact on their daily lives. They are voting on budgets which impact property taxes, bond issues, school board directors, city council members, open space and possible city center (just to name a few) which all impact on what South Burlington is and what it can be.”
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent