Burlington's FY12 Budget

I have served on the City Council for two years and am excited as the newest member of the Board of Finance to offer my perspective on the proposed FY 12 budget.

It is a challenging time to figure out the best approach for maintaining city services. It is important to note that there has been no tax increase for general city services since 2004. We have spent the last six years streamlining government, seeking efficiencies in city department operations, and most importantly, striving to maintain an excellent level of service. However, with growth of the city’s grand list (the main source of revenue for our general fund), unable to keep up with inflation, it was only a matter of time before normal cost increases would result in the need for additional tax revenue.

In March, voters voted down a four-cent tax increase for general city services. The Administration has proposed two options – a two cent increase that would maintain current city services or an approximately $750K reduction in programs that depend on the general fund. Public Safety (Police and Fire), Public Works (snow removal program and equipment maintenance), Library, and Parks and Recreation are the main departments that rely, in part, on the general fund. If we do not approve a modest tax increase, the $750K reduction will mean noticeable decreases in city services. For example, reductions could result in delays in snow removal, reductions in library community outreach, reductions in police staffing, and increases to some Parks & Rec fees.

The City Council will decide shortly whether to ask voters to approve a two-cent tax increase during a special election in June. A two-cent increase is approximately $50 annually on a $250K house.

Burlingtonians must decide in the short-term whether a reduction in city services is acceptable versus investing in Burlington and our departments that have spent six years controlling costs. In the long-term, we must look into the future for the FY13 budget and recognize that larger structural changes must be made in order to prevent more significant tax increases. The major cost drivers continue to be increasing health insurance and other employee benefits, especially in fire and police services. As we all know, personnel is the major expense of any municipality and we must find ways to balance the need for city services (specifically our fire and police services), being fair to our city employees, while also being proactive about structural changes to departments and services in order to keep things affordable for all of us. I, for one, would rather support an investment in our city through a small tax increase this year versus pay for a larger increase in the near future.

Comments

Tax increase

I'm disappointed in your yes vote for a tax increase. Are you following your constituents wishes or just the towing the progressive party line? Your stance on topics and role in this cities government has caused enough financial damage. We (ward 3 taxpayers) are fed up with the inability of Burlington to get it's financial house in order. We all know the extra $50 per year will be wasted. The well is dry. Time to stop looking for more money and start looking for more efficiencies.

Robert in the ONE.

Response to Tax Increase

Robert,
I have heard from a number of Ward 3 constituents that support a tax increase in order to maintain city services. As I noted in my blog post, if we do not have a tax increase for FY12, we will see a decrease in city services, specifically in police services, snow removal, and library services. We will also see an increase in parks fees. I think that is something we need to consider especially for Ward 3 residents who use these city services.

I do listen to my constitutents while balancing the needs of the city and keeping Burlington an affodable place to live. With no general fund tax increase since 2004, due in part to city departments looking and implementing more efficient ways to provide city services, I am not sure where else we can look for savings. Government and any business eventually has increases in costs of operating. We have reached that point and now must choose between cuts and a tax increase.

For the record, the city council voted down any question of a tax increase for FY12 to go to the voters at last night's council meeting (May 2).

I appreciate your input. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Ward 3 City Councilor

Yes, and I thank the other

Yes, and I thank the other councilors for it. Your no vote was my reason for posting this morning.

Let's be clear....while there has been no general fund tax increase, property assessments have risen which resulted in higher property taxes for residents.

So you're saying there is no room for cuts in any departments other than fire, police, snow removal and library?

The majority of Burlington residents (many that voted on town meeting day) disagree with, or just may not believe many claims coming from the progressive party in this city.

Thank you for letting me speak my mind.