Home News and Features What Does the Public Want from the City? Getting Beyond the Obvious

What Does the Public Want from the City? Getting Beyond the Obvious

Nearly half of the 684 respondents to the city of Montpelier’s survey about FY2025 budget priorities added a comment about specific concerns. The remaining opportunities to express those concerns are at two public hearings, Wednesdays, Jan. 17 and 24, both at City Hall and online, 6:30 p.m.

While the top priorities selected were the obvious, Public Works, Fire/Emergency Services, and Public Safety (Police), the comments have a variety of suggestions about where the necessary cuts should be made. So far, discussion among the members of the City Council has reflected these top priorities, including restoring an $88,000-a-year firefighter position that had been cut from the city manager’s initial draft of the budget.

That addition to the draft budget is not reflected in the minutes of the Jan. 3 City Council meeting, nor has the Dec. 12, 2023 online posting of the draft FY2025 budget been updated as of Jan. 15, 2024. 

In the general survey the budget line items attracting the least support were electric vehicle charging stations, net-zero goals, and indoor recreation activities. These were the services that respondents who supported budget cuts indicated were the most expendable. 

Community Comments

A total of 333 comments came in response to the question: Is there anything else we didn’t ask you that you’d like to contribute to the budget discussion?

Among the most frequent comments were suggestions to sell the Country Club Road property (the former Elks Club) and to drop the plans for the Confluence boat access. Commenters frequently recommended cutting administrative staff at City Hall rather than essential services. 

From another perspective: “Please don’t let the (Front Porch Forum) trolls talk anyone into selling the golf course property. That is a critical piece of providing new housing opportunities. The city should drive this boat, not the FPF trolls.”

At least one comment took aim at social and environmental concerns: “Stop funding woke programs like climate change issues, social politics, and accommodations for fringe segments of people.”

A summary and analysis of the comments can be seen on the city website.

Renters Pay Taxes, Too

A recent public survey by the city of Montpelier sought information about what city services are most important to those who use them and pay for them. Although renters are paying taxes through their landlords, it has been a challenge for the city to engage them in surveys. 

The most recent city survey was conducted from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13, 2023, online and through paper copies.

At the initial presentation to the City Council in December, Communications Coordinator Evelyn Prim explained that while the survey results reflect the views of 684 respondents, they should not be considered as representative of Montpelier residents. “The proportion of homeowners to renters is not representative of the actual population in Montpelier. More homeowners (86.01%) responded to the survey than renters (11.72%). When drawing conclusions from these results, this important bias should be considered,” Prim said.

The 2020 U.S. Census data reported that Montpelier has 4,171 housing units: 56% are owner-occupied while 44% are rental properties, according to Montpelier’s Planning Director Mike Miller. It’s also relevant to note that of the more than 1,830 rental units in Montpelier, 72 are “short-term rentals” (STR), meaning the properties are likely rented through booking services such as Airbnb or Vacation Rentals by Owners (vrbo), according to data provided through Granicus, the city’s contracted digital platform. 

In response to questions from The Bridge, Prim replied that she has endeavored to engage renters in the city’s survey efforts but with limited success so far. “Engaging with renters has been a perennial challenge for our communications efforts. Unless they voluntarily sign up to receive updates, we don’t have any means of reaching them directly. We have been working diligently with other community stakeholders, including landlords and community organizations, to expand our reach to renters.”