Town Meeting Day 2020 - Information About the City Ballot Questions

Voter Information:

Town Meeting Day 2020 is Tuesday, March 3. The City of Burlington has eight polling places, one for each of the eight wards, and polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. To find your polling place and learn more about Burlington elections, visit the City Clerk/Treasurer’s Office elections page: You can also verify your registration on the Vermont Secretary of State’s My Voter page.

Early voting is also available at City Hall on Monday-Friday in advance of Town Meeting Day week from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, on Saturday, February 29 from 9:00 am to noon, and on Monday, March 2 from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. Please note that the Clerk’s Office will be closed for early voting after 1:00 pm on Monday, March 2 in order to prepare for the election.

View your sample ballot: Sample ballots are available in seven languages, which are English, Arabic, Burmese, French, Nepali, Somali, and Swahili.

The rest of the material on this page is intended to provide information to voters about the three City of Burlington questions that are on the Town Meeting Day 2020 ballot.

Ballot Item #2:

Ballot language: 2. INCREASE IN PUBLIC SAFETY TAX RATE AUTHORIZED “Pursuant to Sec. 102a of the City Charter, shall the police and fire tax rate be increased by $0.03 so that the public safety tax rate (one component of the overall city tax rate) for FY21 is increased from $0.0807 to $0.1107, a 3.5% increase to the FY20 overall city tax rate, for the operations of a third ambulance and other public safety needs?”

About this ballot item: This ballot item would increase the public safety tax rate by three pennies – from $0.0807 to $0.11107, an increase of 3.5 percent to the municipal tax rate – which will allow the City to operate a third ambulance based in the New North End.

  • Burlington currently operates two ambulances. As a result of demographic changes, population growth, and other factors, the City has reached the point where, to continue to provide highly responsive emergency medical service, Burlington needs to add a third ambulance.
  • To operate a third ambulance, the City needs to hire nine new firefighter/EMTs.
  • While the third ambulance will be based in the New North End, it is expected to help improve medical responsiveness throughout the City. It will also give the City two additional firefighter/EMTs on every shift to respond to emergencies including major fires.
  • The dedicated public safety tax rate was last increased in FY 2005. Today, the call volume on the City’s two ambulances has reached a level similar to the call volume when the decision was made to add a second ambulance 20 years ago.
  • A three cent increase in the public safety tax is expected to generate approximately $1,130,648. A detailed breakdown of how that City would use that revenue for the Burlington Fire Department is available here [PDF]. The median value of a home in Burlington is assessed at $230,000, and if this item passes, a home of this value will see a property tax increase of approximately $70.00 per year.
  • If voters approve this item, the total property tax increase for City operating expenses over the last nine budgets will still be lower than the rate of inflation.
  • This item was unanimously supported by the City Council.
  • More information about this ballot item is available in Mayor Weinberger’s memo to the Board of Finance and City Council, which is available here [PDF].

Ballot Item #3:

Ballot language: 3. PROPOSED CHARTER CHANGE RE HOUSING TRUST FUND “Shall the Charter of the City of Burlington, Acts of 1949, No. 298 as amended be further amended to add a new section 102f as follows: 102f Annual assessment for Housing Trust Fund use authorized. The city council shall annually assess upon the property grand list of the city to assist in meeting the appropriation made for distributions and uses of the Housing Trust Fund as set forth in Article 18-404 of the Code of Ordinances a tax that will, in the judgment of the city council, be sufficient to assist in meeting such appropriation, but the rate shall not exceed one cent upon the dollar of the property grand list, except when a larger rate shall be authorized by the legal voters of the city. The tax shall not be included within the limitations of the amount of tax for city purposes prescribed in section 99 of this chapter?”

About this ballot item: This ballot item would restore the Burlington Housing Trust Fund to the level that voters authorized when they created the fund in 1990, and strengthen the fund to ensure that it stays at that level over time.

  • In 1990, Burlington voters approved the creation of the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), and authorized the City Council to devote one penny of the general tax rate to affordable housing in Burlington.
  • Since then, the HTF has become the City’s largest source of municipal funding for affordable housing, and has supported the creation and preservation of 1,686 units of affordable housing and 117 beds. These projects have included new multi-family senior housing, adaptive reuse, co-ops, transitional housing, and individual residential sites. The HTF also has helped leverage significant additional resources for affordable housing in Burlington.
  • Because of adjustments to the general tax rate, however, over time the portion of the general tax rate devoted to the HTF has eroded from one cent to just a half-cent.
  • This charter change would restore the funding for the HTF to a full penny of every $100 of assessed property value and ensure that it stays at that level over time.
  • This proposal would increase the annual funding to the HTF from $200,384 today to a projected $494,775 by 2021. The tax impact for the average Burlington homeowner (with a single family home at the median assessed value of $230,000) would be a projected $23.00 annually in 2020 and a projected $30.67 annually following the next City-wide reappraisal.
  • The City Council supported this item in a 10-2 vote.
  • Please note that while the ballot language reads "one cent upon the dollar of the property grand list," this is a result of a technicality in how the City Charter is written, which expresses the City grand list in hundreds. Therefore, "one cent upon the dollar of the property grand list" translates to one penny per $100 of assessed property value.
  • More information about the Burlington Housing Trust Fund is available here, and more information about this proposal is available here.

Ballot Item #4:

Ballot language: 4. PROPOSED CHARTER CHANGE RE CHANGES TO LOCAL ELECTION DATES “Shall the Charter of the City of Burlington, Acts of 1949, No. 298, as amended, be further amended to change the timelines in Article 2 Elections and City Meetings--City Elections, Section 3; Article 3 Warnings, Section 6; and Article 8 Method of Conducting Elections, Section 22, for submission of petitions relating to charter changes, ballot questions, and candidates in special elections (all elections other than the city annual meeting) so that local ballots are available during state elections at the same time as state ballots, forty-five (45) days prior to the election?”

About this ballot item: This item would change elections procedures in order to allow early voting to begin at the same time for both State and Local elections for non-Town Meeting Day elections.

  • This item would allow the City to avoid the election confusion caused when the City has to send early voters their two different ballots on different dates.
  • Beginning early voting at the same time for local as well as state elections will encourage greater voter participation in local elections, reduce election expenses, streamline absentee ballot processing, and decrease the potential for errors.
  • Currently, a problem arises when state and federal elections occur on the same day as a local election.  Ballots for state and federal ballots must be available for people to begin early voting at least 45 days before the election, but local ballots cannot be ready yet because the deadlines for petitions is closer to the election.  This has resulted in early voters who complete and return their state ballots having to be sent a second ballot later when the local ballot is ready and local voting begins. 
  • This change will require local petitions to be submitted sooner, but it will provide voters with more time to vote.
  • More information about this change is available here [PDF].