Less than 18 percent of Town Meeting Day voters approved the multi-million dollar city budget on Town Meeting Day, as well as several articles.
Voters attended the public information meeting at Frederick M. Tuttle Middle School Monday night, as city councilors and school board members presented the municipal and school budgets, respectively. There was also a presentation of the three other articles on the ballot.
The $60,006,766 municipal budget passed by a vote of 1,540-1,038. Of that budget amount, $16,126,330 will be raised by taxes. The General Fund makes up $24.57 million of the total budget and includes a 2.84 percent tax rate increase. The General Fund budget is up by $880,652, or 3.72 percent, over the current spending plan.
But the Pennies for Paths initiative approved by voters in August 2018 will also be funded by an increase in taxes that will kick in starting July 2019. Voters approved the plan to raise $3 million over 10 years for bike and pedestrian path improvements to the city’s recreation path network. That tax increase, coupled with the 2.84 percent tax increase that comes with the approved FY2019-20 budget, would create a new tax increase of 4.79 percent as of July 1, 2019, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
That translates to a total municipal property tax rate of $0.5282, which will rise to $0.5283 come July with the Penny for Paths tax.
Voters split the vote on two key city charter amendments regarding an option tax and a tax on short term rental cars.
21 to buy tobacco products
Article V was a late addition to the ballot, asking voters whether they support raising the age to legally buy tobacco products in Vermont from 18 to 21 years of age, and advising the Governor and the Legislature to act on enacting a state law to that effect.
The article passed overwhelmingly, 1,973-631. The ballot measure was proposed by South Burlington School Board member Alex McHenry.
The 2019 Town Meeting Day turnout was particularly low with just 17.83 percent of voters casting ballots, meaning only 2,641 out of 14,813 registered voters turned out to vote. That is a roughly 6 percent drop from last year’s Town Meeting turnout, which saw almost 24 percent of voters cast ballots.
Of South Burlington’s four voting precincts, District 7-2 had the highest voter turnout at 20.82 percent, followed closely by District 7-1 with 20.34 percent. District 7-4 garnered 19.22 of voters, and District 7-3 was a distant fourth with just 11.50 percent of voters casting ballots.
Riehle said Tuesday night that she was surprised at the scant attendance at the polls this year.
“Turnout was very low,” she said. “I think it was more of the seniors that came out. I didn’t see many people at the polls.”