Clerk/Treasurer’s Office

Burlington Town Meeting Day 2024

Public Safety Tax Rate FAQ


Is the City asking for a new dedicated tax?

No, the police and fire component of our municipal tax rate has been authorized in our Charter for many years. 


What is the current (FY24) police and fire tax rate?

The police and fire rate until June 30, 2024 is $0.0785, which is about 10% of Burlington’s current overall municipal tax rate of $0.7523. 


If the increase is approved, what will it be used for?

The police and fire municipal tax is required by the City’s Charter to be spent on items directly related to public safety. All of the money that is collected under the police and fire tax is used to fund staff and operating costs for both the Fire Department and Police Department.


How much money does the current police and fire tax raise for public safety?

For the current FY24 budget, the City estimates it will collect $4.4M from the police and fire tax.  Please note that the expense budgets for the police and fire departments for this year are approximately $34M in total, so the police and fire tax at the current rate only covers 13% of expected costs for public safety. 


When is the last time the police and fire tax rate was increased?

Voters last voted to increase the police and fire tax rate in March 2020 to add a third ambulance. The increase was implemented in the FY22 budget, and there has not been a voter approved tax increase since.   


Do we still have savings from cutting the police budget?

The chart below shows the actual amount spent by the police department by year and demonstrates that the City did experience a decrease in costs for two years in FY21 and FY22 following the 2020 City Council vote to cut police ranks 30% by attrition.  However, as of last year (FY23), as rebuilding occurred, the costs to operate the police department were almost equal to what they were in FY20 and this year they are predicted to be $2.2M more.



Police Budget Actuals

Y to Y Difference






















FY24* projected




What else is the City doing to help balance the budget in addition to asking for a public safety tax increase?

Since FY20, the City has experienced a 17% increase in inflation so has seen expenses across the general fund rise dramatically.  Property taxes, and most other sources of the City’s revenue, do not increase with inflation and so have stayed relatively flat.  To bring in a fiscally sound budget for next year, the City is looking at a balanced approach including reducing non-public safety expenses by 5%, raising user fees to keep up with market prices, and increasing the hotel tax to ensure that visitors help pay their share of the increased costs.  


How many officers are included in next year’s police budget?

Next year’s (FY25’s) budget assumes 77 sworn officers, the amount projected in Rebuilding Plan Chief Murad released in 2022 that we are working to implement.  If we are not able to hire 77 officers for the full year, that funding would be available for other police expenses (such as additional overtime, or greater usage of private security personnel, for example).


Does the police budget include resources beyond police officers?

Yes, the police budget includes 13 Community Service Officers and 6 Community Support Liaisons in addition to staff for the new CARES team focusing on mental health, and other professional staff positions within the department.


How does Burlington’s proposed municipal tax increase compare with other communities?

Burlington, like our neighbors, has faced years of unprecedented and sustained inflation as the entire community recovers from the pandemic and now one-time revenues are waning.  To continue to provide the services that Burlington residents expect, moderate increases to municipal taxes are one component of a reasonable, balanced budget.


Municipality FY 25
Burlington * 5.10% 11.30%
Colchester 4.63% 10.33%
South Burlington 5.82% 11.57%
Winooski 9.83% 14.92%
* FY 25 Burlington increase includes proposed 3.98% increase for public safety tax and 1% planned increase for debt service. Tax rate will change slightly when rate for retirement tax is finalized.

What new positions, besides uniformed officers, are also funded in this budget?

Please see the chart below which details community resources that are included in the budget.  This chart does not include the administrative staff, dispatchers, or uniform officers who are also on the payroll.



Total Projected in FY25 Budget

Total on Staff

as of Feb 2024

Assistant Director Crisis, Advocacy and Intervention Programs (CAIP)



Domestic Violence Victims Advocate (DVVA) and Victim’s Advocate (paid by CEDO)



CARES Clinician



CARES Supervisor



Community Support Liaison (CSL)



CSL Supervisor



Community Service Officer (CSO)



CSO Supervisor




What will my taxes look like if both the school budget and the public safety tax increase pass?

The estimate below is what property taxpayers who pay the full homestead education tax rate would pay if both the 13.97% education tax increase and the full additional 4% public safety tax increase were put into effect in FY25.  Please remember that the income-based Vermont Property Tax Credit assists many Vermont homeowners with affording their property taxes. Note that $381,400 is the current single-family home median assessed value according to the Assessor’s Office. 

Appraised Value FY24 HS +
FY25 Proposed
HS + Proposed
Municipal Tax *
Y over Y
Total Proposed
Tax Increase
Amount of
Annual Increase
for Municipal Tax
$2.2008 $2.4417
$300,000 $6,602.40 $7,325.10 $722.70 $90.00
$381,400 $8,393.85 $9,312.64 $918.79 $114.42
$450,000 $9,903.60 $10,987.65 $1,084.05 $135.00
$600,000 $13,204.80 $14,650.20 $1,445.40 $180.00
* Municipal tax includes proposed 3.98% increase for public safety tax and 1% planned increase for debt service. Tax rate will change slightly when rate for retirement tax in finalized.


How will I benefit if the tax rate increase passes?

If the tax rate increase passes, the City will be able to fully fund the projected Police and Fire budgets.

This will allow the BPD to continue hiring uniform police officers according to the rebuilding plan and maintain the Community Service Officers (CSOs) and Community Support Liaisons (CSLs) that have been created over the past three years, and to create a new mobile drug and mental health crisis response unit that the City has been planning. CSLs are trained social workers who help respond to the needs of community members who are struggling the most. CSOs respond to the low-level calls to free up the armed, sworn police officers to respond to more significant calls.


What will happen if the tax rate increase does not pass?

If the tax rate increase fails then the City Administration will need to review all public safety projected expenses and likely find a way to decrease them by $1.8M (the amount the proposed tax increase would raise). 


How much has the cost of the fire department grown over time?


Fire Budget


Y to Y


FY17 $9.9M  
FY18 $10.3M $0.4M
FY19 $10.7M $0.4M
FY20 $11.7M $1.0M
FY21 $12.6M $0.9M
FY22 $14.1M $1.5M
FY23 $14.1M -



$15.6M $1.5M


What is the projected deficit for next year’s City budget?

We have a projected deficit of $9M at this point and are proposing to close that gap as follows:


Amount (in millions)


Regularly Expected Revenue Growth

$        0.3

Expected increase in property tax revenue via organic grand list growth

$        0.6

Expected increase in Gross Receipts, Local Option Tax and Franchise Fees based on historical performance

City-led Budget Adjustments

 $      (3.0)

Expected decrease of 5% of GF non-public safety expenses after operational efficiency analysis

User Fees

$        1.3

Expected increase user fees approximately 10% after analysis

Hotel Tax

$        1.0

Potential 2% increase to gross receipts/hotel portion only

One-Time Funds

$        1.0

Unused ARPA funds, recently freed up

Public Safety Tax

$        1.8

Potential increase of $.03 to public safety tax


$        9.0