Home News and Features A Message from City Hall: Catching Up

A Message from City Hall: Catching Up

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I haven’t contributed a “city page” here since July. While I doubt many of you even noticed or missed them, a confluence of professional and personal obligations caused me to set these articles aside for a while. I have some catching up to do over the next few months! I appreciate all of the people in city government and at The Bridge for their patience and understanding.

Winter Parking

Winter parking regulations will work the same as last year with alternate-side parking. 

Starting Nov. 15, vehicles must be parked on alternate sides of the street each night. On odd-numbered days (the first, third, fifth, etc.), parking may occur on the side of the road with odd-numbered addresses. On even-numbered dates ( the second, fourth, sixth, 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. 

Re-Appraisal

The city has begun work on a full property reappraisal that will be fully implemented in 2023. This was last done in 2010. 

Why is the city doing this? Reappraisals are done for the purpose of maintaining equity and fairness among taxpayers. The State of Vermont requires that all properties be assessed and taxed at fair market value. The real estate market changes over time. The state measures these changes using factors known as the “Common Level of Appraisal” and the “Coefficient of Dispersion.” When this data for a municipality falls outside of state-established levels, communities must conduct a full reappraisal.

Isn’t this just a way for the city to make more money? There are a couple of key points about reappraisals. The first and most important is that they do NOT raise more money for local governments. The amount of money to be raised is set during the annual budget process when voters approve city and school budgets as well as other ballot items. This budget amount divided by the total of property values (the grand list) results in the tax rate. 

Won’t this increase my taxes by a lot? An increase in one’s property value does NOT mean a corresponding increase in one’s property tax bill. For instance, if ALL properties in the city increase by an average of 30 percent and your individual property increases by 30 percent you will see no change in your taxes other than that resulting from any budget changes. Similarly — in this hypothetical scenario — if your property value increases only 25 percent, you will see a 5 percent tax decrease. Of course that also works the other way. Properties increasing above the average will realize increases.

Who is doing this? The city has contracted with a reappraisal firm named New England Municipal Consultants (NEMC). They did the 2010 reappraisal and have handled subsequent annual adjustments for us. Therefore, they are familiar with the community, our properties, and the local real estate market.

How does this work? NEMC will, ideally, visit and inspect every property. They have strict COVID protocols in place for the safety of the homeowner and themselves. The process results in the best and fairest outcomes if everyone allows inspections. Please cooperate and allow your property to be fully inspected.

When will the changes be in effect? Inspection data and updated property information is entered into the appraisal software along with all sales data. Preliminary results are reviewed by NEMC and the city assessor for unusual or counterintuitive results. Once fully complete, a notice of value change will be sent to all property owners, likely in the spring of 2023. There will be both an informal and formal grievance period for property owners to contest the projected new value. Once the grievance period is completed, the new values will be set into the grand list. That, along with the approved 2023 budgets and ballot items, will establish the new tax rate. Tax bills based upon the new values and new tax rate will be sent in summer of 2023.

Budget

The city council and city staff have begun work on the FY23 budget. Our current schedule calls for the manager’s budget to be presented to the council on Dec. 8. The council will discuss the budget on Dec. 15 and 22 as well as on Jan. 5. Formal public hearings will be held on Jan. 12 and Thursday, Jan. 20, the deadline for completion. The annual city election (Town Meeting) will be held on Tuesday, March 1. 

The major budget challenge this year is building back from the last 18 months of reduced funding. The city has significant backed-up demand for projects and services. We are seeing some upswings in revenue collection this year but are not yet at pre-COVID-19 levels. At the same time, costs for items are increasing, and attracting employees has become very difficult.

Next month’s City Page in The Bridge will outline the budget proposal in detail.

Strategic Planning

The budget will be greatly informed and guided by the city council’s annual strategic planning and priority setting process.

The council chose to engage in this work in September and October instead of the traditional March and April time frame. This helps connect the big-picture thinking with budget decisions that are about to be made.

The city council established six main goals for their work and for the community:

  • Improve community prosperity
  • Provide responsible and engaged government
  • Create more housing
  • Practice good environmental stewardship
  • Build and maintain sustainable infrastructure
  • Improve public health and safety
Several strategies, initiatives, and activities were incorporated into the plan to help accomplish or advance these goals. Prioritized strategies were identified as:

  • Effectively support economic development and promote outdoor economic development
  • Communicate effectively
  • Increase available housing units
  • Promote conservation of river, water, and land resources
  • Address climate change issues
  • Address new or improved infrastructure needs
  • Implement long-term public works infrastructure plans
  • Continue Infrastructure funding strategies
  • Address homelessness in the community
  • Provide policing which fits Montpelier’s needs and provides effective mental health support
The full plan along with quarterly progress reports will soon be posted publicly. 

American Rescue Plan Act

We can’t talk about budget without talking about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which provided funding to all states, counties, and municipalities in the country. Montpelier has received $1.1 million in Rescue Act funding this year and will receive the same amount next year. The city council has committed at least $1 million of that money for projects and equipment delayed because of COVID. The new funding will be considered during the budget process. Like most federal funding, there are restrictions and limits on the use of the money. 

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.

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