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  • Writer's pictureEmma Mulvaney-Stanak

Town Meeting Day Ballot Question Explainer and How I am Voting

Hi neighbors, 


I have heard from many of you asking for clarity about the questions on the back of our ballots. Here are my explanations about these ballot questions, as well as how I intend to vote on each.


1. APPROVAL OF SCHOOL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2025

“Shall the voters of the Burlington School District approve the school board to expend $119,604,584, which is the amount the school board has deemed necessary for the support of the school system for the ensuing fiscal year?”


What does it mean?

This question asks us to consider whether to approve the school budget. The budget includes:

  1. Core educational and staff services

  2. The first year of payment on the bond for our new high school and technical center

  3. A new tax adjustment based on Burlington’s property appraisals


While many Burlington residential property tax payers will benefit from the state’s income sensitized system, the needs within our budget will noticeably increase taxes for homeowners, and, by extension, renters. The Burlington School District (BSD) has put out a helpful informational flier explaining the new budget and your potential tax impact in more detail. 


It is worth noting that, per BSD, “without the bond and the [appraisal adjustment], this year’s budget would have resulted in a tax reduction.” In addition, Burlington’s state legislators — my colleagues and I at the State House — were able to successfully advocate for Burlington to access more state funds this year, which reduced the increase. This is due to our work on Act 127 (2022) that changed the per pupil weight formulas to benefit Burlington’s significant student population who experience poverty and are English Language Learners.


How am I voting?

I am voting YES. 


As a mom to a BSD elementary school student and soon-to-be Kindergarten student, and a former labor organizer for the largest union in Vermont representing educators, I have deep belief in our public schools, teachers, and staff. Our city also urgently needs to build a new high school. Our students need a safe learning space and our City needs a modern day facility to retain and attract families to our community. This is a learning and economic development need. 


I also understand that this is a significant tax increase during a time when we are all struggling with affordability in our city. As a homeowner, my family will be facing a sizable increase in our tax bill that will impact our household budget. I know that many of us are struggling to live and work in our city right now. 


That is why our city must do more to implement equitable revenue policies that protect the economic diversity of our residents. This includes restructuring our municipal tax system with affordability mechanisms and doing long-term fiscal projections to spread out costs and avoid years with large tax spikes.


2. INCREASE IN PUBLIC SAFETY TAX RATE FOR FIRE AND POLICE PURPOSES “Pursuant to Section 102a of the City Charter, shall the police and fire tax rate be increased by three cents ($0.03) for public safety purposes, so that the police and fire tax rate (one component of the overall city tax rate) for FY25 is increased from $0.0785 to $0.1085, an approximate four percent (4%) increase from the FY24 overall city tax rate?”


What does it mean?

This question asks us to consider whether to allow the City to raise the police and fire tax rate by three cents ($0.03). The police and fire tax rate is one of a handful of dedicated tax rates that comprise our total local municipal tax rate. The three cent increase would raise the overall City tax rate by 4%. 


All money collected under this tax would specifically be used to fund the Police and Fire Departments. This includes the non-sworn officers (CSOs and CSLs) and CARES team focused on first responder mental health professionals. The City answers FAQs here.


It is important to note that if approved, the City is allowed, but not required, to collect taxes at the higher rate if it is deemed necessary once the FY25 budget is created. The next mayor and city council will be tasked with building the FY25 budget.


How am I voting?

I am voting YES. 


Without changing revenue or expenses, the City’s next budget faces a $9M budget shortfall. In order to assist the next mayor and city council in building a balanced budget, a small municipal tax increase will be important.  Residents deserve a city that provides robust services and is able make an impact on the pressing challenges facing our community. Residents also need a sustainable city budget and affordable taxes. 


We need our spending to reflect our community’s priorities and values. This means building the FY25 budget that reflects the community’s priorities, adjusts spending as needed to phase in large expenditures over multiple fiscal years (if necessary), and creates a budget that reflects our immediate needs, while understanding workforce hiring challenges. 


You can read more about our City’s upcoming budget needs here, and my statement on that budget here



3. CHARTER CHANGE RE: ELECTRIC DEPARTMENT

“Shall Article 24, Bonding the City, Section 62, of the City Charter, Acts 219 of 1949, No. 298, as amended, related to pledging the credit of the city for temporary loans for working capital and  liquidity, be further amended to provide for an increase in the permitted amount of temporary loans for working capital and liquidity for the electric department from five million dollars to ten million dollars?”


What does it mean?

This is a fairly technical question that asks us to allow the Burlington Electrical Department (BED) to increase its line of credit. BED’s line of credit authorization amount is within the city charter, so any adjustment requires a charter change question.


How am I voting?

I am voting YES. 


It is important that our municipally owned electric utility is well-resourced and able to operate as needed, particularly with rising inflation. 


BED has not had to use its line of credit in a number of years. However, as costs rise, they may need to access it and we need the amount of the line of credit to support their financing needs. Adjusting the charter change language  allows them to do so. 



OTHER RESOURCES


Watch this video to hear each ballot question explained at the Wards 2 & 3 NPA.


As always, don’t forget to vote! Find helpful information, answers to FAQs, and resources like rides to your polling place at www.emmaformayor.com/vote



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