Mayor&Rsquo;S Office

August 2019 Update from Mayor Weinberger: Good news for financial recovery, next step for City's work on diversity, and update on CityPlace Burlington

August 2019

This month, I’m excited to share news of a major step for the City: We’ve received a two-notch credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Services, marking the achievement of the City’s financial turnaround. This upgrade represents years of work to restore the City’s financial health, and it will mean millions of dollars of savings for Burlingtonians.

City Receives Two-Notch Credit Rating Upgrade, Fully Restoring Financial Standing

Nearly eight years ago, as a candidate for mayor, I stood on the steps of City Hall and announced a financial plan that made clear that restoring the City's fiscal health would be my top priority. At the end of July, following much hard work by the Administration, the City Council, and many others, I was excited to stand on the City Hall steps once again and share the news that we have fully delivered on that promise. The City of Burlington received a two-notch credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Services, marking the complete restoration of the “Aa3” credit rating that we last held ten years ago prior to Burlington Telecom-related downgrades.

This ratings upgrade will make a real difference. It will keep millions of dollars here in Burlington that would otherwise be sent to Wall Street in the form of much higher bond interest rates, and allow us to make necessary investments in public goods at a lower cost to taxpayers and ratepayers. Even before this upgrade, Burlington's financial turnaround since 2014 had locked in savings for taxpayers and ratepayers of over $17 million. In the months and years ahead, with a restored double-A rating, those savings will significantly expand as the community takes on more debt to build a new high school, make necessary upgrades to our water systems, and continue our voter-approved reinvestment in streets, sidewalks, and other public infrastructure.

This ratings upgrade also represents real work by many. Over the past seven years, we have rehabilitated our reserve fund from a deficit of $15 million to a surplus of $9.7 million. We have posted years of operating surpluses through innovation, efficiency, improved financial reporting, and stronger budgeting practices. We have gone from 27 audit deficiencies in 2012 to zero in 2018. We resolved the $33.5 million Burlington Telecom lawsuit on terms very favorable to taxpayers, while also recovering approximately $7 million of lost taxpayer funds and ensuring high-speed broadband choice for Burlingtonians. And much more, including creating the City’s first-known debt policy to outline a target and maximum for the amount of debt that the City will take on.

In short, this is a good day for Burlington, many years in the making. Thank you to all who have made this recovery possible, including Chief Administrative Officer Beth Anderson and her team and predecessors, our skilled and dedicated department heads, our public employee unions for their critical collaboration on pension and health care reforms, and, especially the voters of Burlington, who weighed in forcefully many times over last eight years to keep us on course.

In an age where there is so much cynicism about government, and doubt about the functioning of our democracy, I hope that the people of Burlington see in this collective accomplishment evidence that here, together, we are still able to achieve big and valuable community goals. For additional information, see this link.

Advancing the City’s Work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This July, the Administration and the City Council worked closely together to create a new, senior position in City government that will focus on enhancing the City’s work for racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. I see this action as the right next step for this work. Soon after I came into office, in 2012, the Administration and the City Council formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, which led to a strategic plan and Core Team to consult on City decisions through an equity lens. That Core Team has played a valuable role over the last five years, as we have pursued initiatives including strong law enforcement responses to hate crimes, consistently and aggressively opposing the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, making some progress diversifying the City’s workforce, expanding implicit bias training of our police officers and senior officials, altering policing practices, and more.

Now, we are ready for the next step in this work. While we have made some progress, there is much more work to do. By creating a new position, we will also be creating new focus and accountability, and institutionalizing a commitment to racial diversity, equity, and inclusion within City government. I look forward to working with the City Council to develop the job description and find the right person for this role, and to continuing our work for racial justice with this new structure and approach.

Update on CityPlace Burlington

In mid-July, I shared an update on CityPlace Burlington following Brookfield Properties’ announcement that the project is faced with additional delays. Like many in our community, I am frustrated and disappointed that the developers have not commenced construction. At the same time, I think there is much good reasoning, at least for now, to continue our collaboration with Brookfield. Brookfield’s statement and recent actions demonstrate that there remains a potentially very good path forward with them, and the City cannot succeed at our goal of transforming this part of our downtown into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood without a strong partner.

To see my full update – including information about the continued health of our downtown during this period, and our current plan for moving forward – see this link.

As always, I encourage you to join me at the Bagel Café on North Avenue on Wednesday mornings from 8:00-9:00 am to share your thoughts and questions about these or any other topics that are on your mind. I look forward to seeing you soon.