Home Columns A Message from City Hall: Parking and Other Assorted Winter Matters

A Message from City Hall: Parking and Other Assorted Winter Matters

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By the time this is published, perhaps our collective election fatigue will have subsided. It’s been an intense period for politics at the national and state levels. Congratulations to our re-elected legislative delegation, Representatives Mary Hooper and Warren Kitzmiller and Senators Ann Cummings, Andrew Perchlik, and Anthony Pollina. And, of course, congratulations are due to the statewide winners — Congressman Peter Welch, Governor Phil Scott, Lieutenant Governor-elect Molly Gray, Attorney General TJ Donovan, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Treasurer Beth Pierce, and Auditor Doug Hoffer. Thanks to all who stepped forward to run for any offices from Congress to High Bailiff. Being a candidate for public office is difficult. We need people to participate in order to have an exchange of ideas and electoral choices.

I also congratulate City Clerk John Odum and Assistant City Clerk Crystal Chase for overseeing an extremely well run election under brand new circumstances. Like many places, Montpelier had record turnout and over 4,000 mail in/advance ballots. Running an election in a pandemic is very challenging and they did a great job. Thanks to the many volunteers who assisted in all facets of the election process. 

With the national and state elections complete, the next opportunity to have our say at the ballot box will be the annual town meeting election on March 2, 2021. We don’t know the details yet of how that election will be managed. As we all know, the annual city budget is considered on that date. I will have more about that later in this
article.

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Winter Parking

Please note that winter parking regulations have changed substantially this year. The prior system of calling parking bans for storms and subsequent snow removal/clean up did not work well. Too many vehicles had to be towed — often overwhelming our towing capacity. Roads were not cleared well because of parked vehicle obstruction.  

The previous practice had been a complete overnight winter parking ban on all streets from Nov. 15 to April 1. This caused hardship and inconvenience for many residents, particularly those in apartments with limited or no driveway available.  

The full winter ban was too onerous and the called bans were ineffective. In order to effectively provide one of the most core city services — winter snow operations — the city needed to change the winter parking system. This led to alternate side parking.

Starting Nov. 15, vehicles must be parked on alternate sides of the street each night. On odd numbered days (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.), parking may occur on the side of the road with odd numbered addresses. On even numbered dates ( the 2nd, 4th,, 6th, etc.), parking may occur on the side of the road with even numbered addresses.  

This system will be in place and enforced from Nov. 15 through April 1, regardless of weather conditions. Having one side of the street clear every night will allow the Department of Public Works to more effectively plow and remove snow. Here are the details:

Alternate Side Parking Nov. 15 – April 1

As of October 14, 2020, the City has adopted new winter parking regulations referred to as Alternate Side Parking. Some streets may have different requirements, find your street on the City’s webpage by visiting montpelier-vt.org/1192/Alternate-Side-Winter-Parking-Newly-Adop.

For the majority of the streets the process will be every day Alternate Side Parking.

  • 12 a.m.–5 p.m.: All cars must be parked on the correct side of the street as indicated by whether building numbers are odd or even according to the calendar day. For an example, if it’s January 2nd, you park on the “even” numbered side of the street, and if it’s March 3rd, you park on the “odd” numbered side of the street.
  • 5 p.m.–11:59 p.m.: (Transition Period) Move your vehicle to the other side of the street any time during this transition period.

For the downtown area the process will be as follows:

  • 1 a.m.–6:59 a.m.: NO PARKING is allowed.
  • 7 a.m.–12:59 a.m.: Daytime parking is allowed as usual (regardless of the day)

Questions? Send them to Jasmine Benson at jbenson@montpelier-vt.org or call 802-223-9508.

Please follow the DPW’s social media pages for updates.

Budget

The City Council and City staff have begun work on the FY22 budget. Our current schedule calls for the Manager’s budget to be presented to the Council on Dec. 2. The council will discuss the budget on Dec. 9, one other December date yet to be determined, and Jan. 6. Formal public hearings will be held on Jan. 13 and Thursday, Jan. 21, which is the deadline for completion.

Revenue Projections

The City is facing significant revenue downgrades in parking, permits, program fees, and Local Options Taxes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given the uncertainty that still prevails and our most recent experience, the following revenue categories are forecasted to decline — Totaling approximately (−$595,000). Property taxes ($75K), State PILOT 10 percent reduction ($90K), Local Options Tax (LOT)/Current Use ($175K), State Highway ($40K), School Resource Officer ($28K), Permits and Fees ($80K), Ambulance ($95K), Penalty and Interest ($12K)

In addition to what’s noted above, the Parking Fund is no longer in a position to support personnel costs allocated based on related work. Non-parking enforcement and maintenance may need to be shifted back to the General Fund, an initial review puts this figure at (−$425,000). 

Expense Trends/Projections

In FY21, as part of the Deficit Mitigation plans, most City employees forewent Cost of Living Adjustments. Police and DPW unions have, this far, opted to hold off on negotiations due to current economic conditions. 

In FY22, IF employee wages were adjusted by a 2 percent COLA and 1.5 percent Step, salary lines would increase by $397,000 (Gross)/275,000 (GF). 

Wage-based employer costs such as Social Security, Medicare, VMERS retirement contributions, and workers compensation insurance are anticipated to increase by $50,000 (Gross)/35,000 (GF). 

The preliminary 2021 BlueCross/BlueShield health insurance premiums renewal has been received and the proposed increase effective January 1, 2021 is 8 percent, meaning an additional $135,000 (Gross)/$110,000 (GF) over current premiums. 

The combined cost of wages and health insurance will approach $582,000 gross in the FY22 budget process, which translates into a $420,000 impact on the General Fund. 

The citywide reappraisal will begin in FY22 and continue into FY23 at a cost of $130,000 each year (or $260K total project cost). The elevator in City Hall needs to be refurbished to comply with ADA standards and is estimated to cost $100,000. There are other items in the mix as well: the $20,000 for Confluence Park, $270,000 for parking meter upgrades, $134,000 for the TKS property, $120,000 for LED street lights, money for the Barre Street intersection, and the Recreation Center Renovation project. 

Net Funding Gap

The net of reduced revenues and increasing expenses leaves a budget gap of $1.7 million to $2 million in the general fund. This gap represents about 13 percent of the current budget. Balancing this budget will require reductions and changes in a scale that we have not entertained previously. Services, projects, community support, and others will all likely be hit. As city officials work their way through these very hard choices, we welcome any suggestions about priorities.

Thank you for reading this article and for your interest in Montpelier city government. Please feel free to contact me at wfraser@montpelier-vt.org or 802-223-9502 with any questions, comments, or concerns.