Following a tough year that included $11 million in flood recovery expenses and a partial hiring freeze that’s been in place for several months, Montpelier city councilors considered a budget proposal last week that City Manager Bill Fraser called a “hard reset.” To keep the budget increase in line with inflation at 3.2%, Fraser said, he recommended deep cuts in almost every department. The proposed budget eliminates one police officer and the entire police canine program, one firefighter (and reduces overtime for firefighters), one position in the Department of Public Works, and eliminates both the AmeriCorps and Montpelier Youth Conservation Corps programs at the City Parks Department. Also included is a $65,000 cut to “admin staff reductions TBD” and a full-time position with the recreation department along with “operations cuts” and the “childcare program eliminated,” according to Fraser’s presentation to the council. Other services such as expenses for surveys, committee stipends, and an outside lobbyist were eliminated, along with $100,000 for economic development (Fraser said that money had once been allocated for the now defunct Montpelier Development Corporation, and was used last year for the Country Club Road property). “Our budget conflict in a nutshell,” said Fraser, is that we provide services to 50,000 people on any given day and that’s paid for by 8,000 people.”Despite the severe cuts, the budget fully funds items such as $2.4 million for the capital projects, equipment and debt service program (the “capital plan”), and retains cost-of-living and step increases for all city staff except for the leadership team. The bottom line for property taxpayers: the proposed budget “requires a 2.74 cent (3.1%) increase in the property tax rate. For the average residential property, this tax rate represents an increase of $102 on the tax bill,” according to the budget executive overview on the city website. That capital plan funding is $246,500 higher (11.4%) than FY24 and matches the capital funding goal, according to the overview. “Of this $880,611 is for projects and $415,000 is for equipment, $1,104,389 is in existing/projected debt service.” The budget is now in the hands of council members, who will be meeting for the first of two “budget workshops” on Wed. Dec. 20 at the Montpelier Senior Center. Councilors heard the proposed cuts at the end of a meeting in which they approved an updated strategic plan, and had a lengthy conversation with local legislators about the need for state funding to buoy up the capital city, which was hard hit by the July 2023 flood, even as it hasn’t yet recovered from losing the spending (and local taxes on that spending) from state employees, many of whom are still working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic. Fraser noted four factors that have contributed to a tight financial situation for the city: increased costs (and delays); ongoing infrastructure needs; budget rescission and revenue loss due to the flood; and the reappraisal, which had the effect of drastically increasing many citizens’ property taxes. To see the budget, go to city-montpelier-vt-budget-book.cleargov.com/14120/introduction. For details about upcoming city council meetings, go to montpelier-vt.org/129/Agendas-Minutes.