Pre-Town Meeting:A Look at the Ballot

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Thursday February 27, 2014

Pre-Town Meeting

By this point in the year, city residents have had a chance to look over their budget books and delve into the details of the city and school financial proposals for FY 15, but there’s nothing quite like having one’s questions clarified face-to-face. That’s where the pre-town meeting comes into the mix. This year, the event will be held Monday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the F. H. Tuttle Middle School cafeteria. 

The evening will begin with a school budget presentation and discussion followed by the city budget presentation and discussion. An explanation of the City Clerk Term Article III will be detailed,then the candidate forums will be held from 8:15-9:45 p.m.  Residents will first hear from the two candidates running uncontested for School Board.  Next, the City Council candidate forums will feature five individuals running for two open seats.  

Attend the pre-town meeting, and be well informed when you vote Tuesday, March 4.

On the Ballot

City Council Candidates

Paul Engels, Tracey Harrington, and current City Council Chair Pam Mackenzie are vying for a three year seat and Meaghan Emery and Mike Simoneau are competing for the two year seat. 

City Clerk

Incumbent City Clerk Donna Kinville is running unopposed for the one year City Clerk term.  

City Article II 

Dennis Lutz is running unopposed for Champlain Water Commissioner in City Article II.

City Article III

This article asks voters if the City Clerk position should be a three year term, beginning in 2015. This ballot item is intended to resolve a clerical error made in Montpelier when the portion of the charter stating the 3 year clerk’s term was accidentally deleted. By law, the paragraph cannot simply be added back to the charter to correct the mistake; it must be voted back in.  To fill the gap until the three year term is reinstated next year (if the article passes), the City Clerk will be elected this year for a one year term. 

City Article IV - City BudgetThe City Council had several goals in mind when building the details of the FY15 budget. Their goal was to maintain the FY14 funding level for city programs and services while  meeting the city’s contractual obligations, supporting funding for one additional police officer (which will bring staffing back to 2011 levels), and offering continued support to the Capital Improvement Plan.  The proposed budget also supports plans for Market Street Reconstruction, future city-wide reappraisal, on-schedule vehicle replacement, and reduction of long-term city debt.

Numerous reductions in the budget were necessary to keep the increase minimal. The adjustments included reductions to the following items:contribution to the Capital Reserve Fund, payment to the sick bank and contingency fund, Winooski Valley Parks District Assessment, and City Hall improvements. The city will also be postponing filling a vacancy for an Economic Development position that will allow for City Center consulting services and Planning and Zoning part-time staff support.

What this means to the taxpayer is a ½ cent increase on the city tax rate from $0.4235 to $0.4285, which is a 1.18% increase overall.  For a condo assessed at $224,743 this is an increase of $11.24 annually and for a detached primary residence assessed at $326,465, this means a $16.32 annual increase. 

Marginal increases have also been proposed for water, stormwater, and sewer utilities. The total estimated utility increase when the three are combined is $13.27 for a typical household. For a condo, the combined tax and utility would mean a $24.51 annual increase and for a single family detached home the annual increase is $29.59. 

School Director Candidates

Current School Directors Dan Fleming and Julie Beatty are running uncontested for their respective two year and three year seats on the School Board.
School Article II - School BudgetThe School Board, Superintendent David Young, and Business Manager John Stewart have developed a proposed budget that necessitated difficult decisions.  The district’s total proposed budget amounts to $44,297,297. 

A few of the key investments recommended in the school budget include funds to evaluate and implement the Common Core standards, new computers for K-6 to replace machines that are several years beyond their warranty, the lease of 3 new buses, expansion of the one-to-one laptop initiative to include grade 12, and continuation of the mentoring program for 45 students in the elementary and middle schools along with funding a portion of the nutritional services deficit. 

In order to hold the spending increase to just 3.05%, $622,402 was cut from the preliminary budget projection. Some of the major reductions include a decrease in the equivalent of 2 teacher positions (FTE) district-wide, along with the reduction of 1.6 paraeducator and administrative support positions, special education costs for outside contracted services, and school supplies and field trips. Tuition to Vocational Technical Centers was cut, and the amount allotted in the contingency account was reduced. 

In summary, the school budget represents an 8.27 percent increase in the residential tax rate. About two thirds of the increase is due to state factors and one third is attributed to changes in district spending. Prior to factoring in income sensitivity, the residential property tax impact would equate to a $409 increase on a $326,000 detached home and a $282 increase on a $225,000 condo. The total increase in district spending is 3.05 percent.

School Article IIIArticle III on the ballot asks voters to approve the repurposing of $1.675M in funds remaining from a bond issued in 2005 for some significant facility projects. These include the installation of an elevator at the Frederick Tuttle Middle School, roof repair at Chamberlin School, and the replacement of an elevator, restroom upgrades, window replacement, and roof replacement at the south wing at South Burlington High School. In this proposed budget, the district’s cost of debt  service will be offset by a reduction in our facilities project budget so that there is no net increase in combined debt and facility repairs over the current fiscal year. Approval of this article will not affect the budget. 

More details are available on the city and school websites. www.sburl.com and www.sbschools.net 

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent