The steering committee, made up of the city council and the school board, meets quarterly to discuss items of mutual interest. Topics include budget development, and in recent years, the build out of City Center and how that could potentially affect the school district. At the Jan. 29 meeting, the budget presentations were made.
But there was also new information regarding stormwater treatment requirements for the site of the planned library, senior center and city hall building at 180 Market Street, which includes both city and school property.
Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard presented the city budget first, along with the articles being warned for the ballot. The city’s proposed tax rate increase comes in at 2.84 percent, an increase over FY19 of $0.0146 cents. The FY20 budget maintains the current level of city services, meets all contractual and bonded debt obligations, provides support for the Capital Improvement Program, funds annual assessments, and continues support for council initiatives.
There are two factors in the city tax rate increase. First, the Penny for Paths initiative, which was approved by voters in August 2018 brought the tax rate from .5136 to .5236. Then, the FY20 proposed budget, which bumped that .5236 figure to .5382.
The average condo owner would see an increase of $33.99 annually and the average homeowner would see an increase of $49.33. The FY20 utility rate increases to $17.48 per year. This is inclusive of water, stormwater, and sewer.
For the city ballot, residents will see several items. One is the election of two council positions, the FY20 budget, the local options tax, the local car rental tax, and a non-binding article asking if the voters of South Burlington advise the Governor to support raising the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The city also discussed 180 Market Street, the site of the proposed library, senior center, and city hall. City Manager Kevin Dorn said that the city was recently alerted to some potential issues regarding stormwater on the building site, which includes property at the Rick Marcotte Central School. The issue relates to a state mandate called the three acre rule, which states that if there is more than three acres of impervious or paved surface on a site (like City Hall and the Central School property) stormwater must be treated regardless of the project being proposed. There are also local stormwater requirements tied to disturbances on property larger than 5,000 square-feet that also drive the need to make stormwater treatment improvements. The state and local requirements are all designed to treat stormwater on the school and library/city hall site that would otherwise negatively affect water quality in Lake Champlain. Dorn explained that short term storage of stormwater will be necessary until a larger, permanent facility can be built within the next few years, likely behind Pier 1 Imports off Dorset Street. He proposed the city build the storage facility and that the district seek the guidance of Deputy Director of Public Works Tom DiPietro regarding how these recent changes at the state level could impact their other properties.
School board members were taken aback by the information since they had yet to discuss this recent development and what it could mean for the district and the master planning and visioning process. Burkhardt said she did not think there had been a collaborative approach between the district and city in crafting a potential solution and suggested the board seek the resources of an independent engineer to determine what this state mandate could mean for their properties.
For the school district, Business Manager Amadee Denton, Director of Operations and Finance Gary Marckres, and Superintendent David Young gave an overview of their proposed FY20 budget. Proposed expenditures are up 4.15 percent for a total of $51,746,533. This represents a 3.36 percent estimated tax increase over FY19. Five factors contribute to this tax rate. District proposed expenditures which are up 4.15 percent and estimated revenues of $11,304,240 which are down 6.19 percent. The remaining three elements are set by the Vermont Agency of Education and by the state. The board reported that South Burlington’s equalized pupils are up 0.94 percent at 2,536.46, but this number is subject to change. The Homestead property tax yield is up 4.36 percent at $10,666. Finally, the Common Level of Appraisal, set by the state, is down by 1.23 percent to 93.28 percent. Equalized pupils are up 0.94 percent at 2,536.46 (this number is subject to change).
Equalized pupils are a way of computing the number of pupils in schools across the state in a consistent fashion using a weighted system. Education spending per equalized pupil is used to set tax rates for each of the districts in the state. This version of per pupil costs divides “net” education spending by the number of equalized pupils in a district, which is a statistic for resident pupils - incoming tuition students are not counted - with various ‘weights’ applied to recognize intensity of need of students.
The Common Level of Appraisal means that the list of all real property in the city and the city’s assessed value of that property, is valued at 93.28 percent of the current fair market value. The CLA is an average percentage of the differences between property assessments and what those properties actually sell for. In calculating the health of a municipality’s Grand List, the closer to 100 percent or more of the current market value the property is, the more accurate the assessed value is. By law, a common level of appraisal under 80 percent will trigger a required reappraisal.
Because Vermont education system is funded primarily though property taxes, the CLA, the number of equalized pupils, and a district’s per equalized per pupil spending are all factors used to calculate a municipality’s annual educational property tax rate.
The impact on the taxpayer, factoring in the Common Level of Appraisal but prior to considering income sensitivity, would be an increase of $52 per $100,000 of assessed home value. The average condo, valued at $231,356 would see a tax increase of $120 and the average home valued at $336,110, would see an increase of $175.
After the presentations, Lee Dore from Dore and Whittier architects gave an update to the board and city officials regarding the school district’s master planning and visioning process. The architectural team is nearing the finale of Phase II of the process, which has been focused on evaluating the middle and high school needs from an education, rather than structural point of view. Currently, eight different configuration options are being proposed by the firm for consideration by the board and administration. Public input will also be part of the process. The options range from maintaining the current schools to building a new combined middle and high school. Each option will be tested against a seven-category evaluation matrix that includes items such as cost, education, the site, community, sustainability, logistics, and student centered/wellness/support faculty.
Young also gave an update on Chamberlin School soundproofing. The district continues to pursue funding for sound mitigation. Testing last year (modeling F35 military jet noise levels) indicated that the school qualified for FAA assistance in the form of sound mitigation. The FAA has yet to approve the funding and the pending revision of the noise map may impact Chamberlin’s eligibility if the new data indicates Chamberlin is below the 65 DNL contour. The district will continue to advocate for funding prior to the F35 arrival in September.