It was great to welcome the Burlington High School boys basketball team to Contois Auditorium at the March 21 City Council meeting and congratulate them for winning their first state championship in eight years. With five New Americans, the team is a reflection of our diverse and talented community, and with only three seniors, they have a great chance at another strong run next year. Thank you to all the players and coaches Matt Johnson and Tom Barron for representing Burlington so well!
I am excited to share news of progress across the City over the past month.
City’s two-step credit rating upgrade
I was proud to announce during the first week of March that Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the City of Burlington’s credit rating two full steps to A3 with a stable outlook, returning the City of Burlington to an “A” rating. Of the six ratings steps that Burlington lost between July 2010 and June 2012 in the wake of Burlington Telecom’s financial struggles, three have now been restored in two upgrades over the last year. The upgrade is projected to immediately result in approximately $450,000 of net present value savings for Burlington taxpayers on a debt refinancing transaction that will be completed in April, and will save Burlington taxpayers and ratepayers millions of additional dollars on interest over time whenever the City pursues necessary and prudent borrowing.
This recent credit rating upgrade is proof that the commitment of the community, the City Council, and the Administration to restore Burlington’s financial reputation is working. We are keeping dollars in Burlingtonians’ wallets instead of wasting them on high interest payments and are in better position to pursue our goals as a community. While we have more to do in the years ahead to complete our financial turnaround, the fact that we have been able to make so much progress in a short time without service cuts or major tax increases is a tribute to the strength of the Burlington economy, the hard work and innovation of our management team, and the collaboration of our public employee unions.
The actions that contributed to the upgrades included:
· Voter approval in November 2012 of the $9 million Fiscal Stability Bond;
· Settlement of the $33.5 million Citibank lawsuit on terms favorable to Burlington taxpayers;
· Conversion of a 2012 unassigned fund balance of negative $15 million into a 2015 surplus of over $4 million;
· Elimination of multi-million dollar fund balance deficits in the Water and Sewer Enterprise Funds;
· Improved financial operations at the Burlington International Airport and Burlington Electric Department;
· Three years of General Fund operating surpluses;
· Improved internal controls and financial management practices that have resulted in the reduction of negative audit findings from 27 in 2012 to four in 2015; and
· The creation of a City Council-approved Fund Balance policy and commitment to long-term infrastructure and capital asset planning.
City of Burlington named a White House TechHire community
Earlier this month I was happy to join BTV Ignite Executive Director Mike Schirling, Congressman Peter Welch, and many other local partners to announce that the City of Burlington had been named a White House TechHire community, part of a multisector White House initiative to link area employers with Burlingtonians, growing the local tech workforce and empowering community members with the skills they would need for well-paying jobs in innovation and technology. The City of Burlington and BTV Ignite will partner with local educational institutions and employers to train and employ 75 tech workers in 2016 and 400 tech workers through 2020. Key employers and training partners include the Vermont HITEC Institute for American Apprenticeship at Burlington College, Champlain College, the University of Vermont (UVM), Vermont Technical College, Community College of Vermont, the UVM Medical Center, the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Vermont Technology Alliance, among many others.
We are well-positioned to grow jobs of the future and foster economic development in the City and the region. The news of our community’s designation as a White House TechHire City is validation that our efforts to build this critical part of our local economy are working and gaining national recognition, as well as local traction and focus with area employers. Burlington’s TechHire designation demonstrates the importance of innovation and our collective drive to enhance tech capacity in Burlington and beyond.
This is exciting news for BTV Ignite under the recent leadership of Mike Schirling. Originally announced in October 2013, BTV Ignite’s mission is to facilitate collaborative efforts between public, private, educational, nonprofit, and entrepreneurial partners to grow and attract tech-centric talent, leveraging Burlington’s City-wide gigabit Internet infrastructure and 21st century application development to create the conditions for sustainable tech economic growth.
As always, I invite you to join me and share your ideas and concerns about the City at the Bagel Café on Wednesday mornings from 8:00-9:00 am or at numerous other community events each month. To stay informed about City progress and happenings, please visit www.facebook.com/MiroBTV. I hope to see you soon.