The Montpelier City Council adopted a $17.3 million budget for FY24 at the end of December 2022, increasing it by $13,000 after an initial presentation by the city manager, Bill Fraser. The bottom line for taxpayers: a proposed 7.4% property tax increase eked up to an increase of 7.5%. Two public hearings are scheduled about the budget on Jan. 11 and Jan. 26.
The council discussed, but ultimately did not add in $10,000 to the Conservation Fund, but it did approve a 66% increase in spending for Wrightsville Beach, up $8,074 and, after some discussion, added $5,000 to the Parks Commission, which rounded the property tax increase to 7.5%. The administration’s target had been a 7.4% property tax increase, which raises taxes on “the average residential property” $212.94, Fraser stated.
“We could take a look and see if we could get it back to 7.4% somehow,” Fraser said, adding “until the council votes to place it on the ballot on Jan. 26, then votes to finalize the ballot, it is still changeable.” The clerk’s budget was adopted separately, as Counselor Cary Brown recused herself because of a conflict of interest as City Clerk John Odum’s spouse.
In a city survey of residents, over 52% of the 268 respondents said they do not support increasing revenues through increased taxes and fees, and 44% said that some department budgets should be reduced, although the survey did not go into detail about which departments or why.
The FY23 city budget increased property taxes by 6.8% — without changes and if voters approve it, the current budget will add up to a property tax increase of 14.3% over two years. Conversely, water and sewer rates are slated to increase 8.7% this year, following an 8.1% increase in FY23, for a 16.2% increase in fees over two years, following a plan designed to slowly increase rates in order to pay for a complete overhaul of the city’s century-old water main system.
The city’s “Budget Development Timeline” presented in October listed the Dec. 21 meeting as a “Budget Discussion,” with a planned follow-up “Budget Workshop” scheduled for Jan. 4, followed by a public hearing on Jan. 11 and a second public hearing plus budget approval on Jan. 26. With the Dec. 21 budget adoption, the Jan. 4 workshop was canceled, as the budget is now approved for public hearings.
YouTube budget presentations by department heads were posted on Dec. 20. The “budget book,” as Fraser called it, is now available on the city website but was not included in the agenda packet. For details on how to attend upcoming public hearings, go to montpelier-vt.org/129/Agendas-Minutes.
Also on Dec. 21, the city council:
Appointed M. Pelin Kohn to the vacant District 2 city council seat.
Approved a ballot charter change item to withdraw from the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority.
Appointed Leesa Stewart as the city’s representative to the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District’s board of supervisors.
Re-appointed Bret Appel to the Complete Streets Committee.