City of Burlington, Vermont

City of Burlington, Vermont

City Hall, 149 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

September 10, 2018

Contact: Jordan Redell

                802.881.7020

 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger, Attorney General TJ Donovan, Vermont State Police Colonel Matthew Birmingham, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo, and representatives from the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office held a press conference at the Burlington Police Department to announce the formation of a City and State Task Force to investigate allegations of violent crimes at the St. Joseph’s Orphanage.

 

Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement at the press conference:

 

“We are gathered here this morning at the Burlington Police Department, located at the southern end of North Avenue.  We stand less than three quarters of a mile south of the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage.  Two weeks ago Buzzfeed News published a lengthy and detailed story alleging decades of terrible abuse and violent crimes at that institution.  We are here to announce this morning the launching of a joint City and State investigation of these allegations.

 

“I am so deeply saddened to hear that these crimes and abuse took place in Burlington. These children were some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and our community failed to protect them.

 

“Some may ask what good can come from the investigation of an institution nearly four decades after it closed.  There is no doubt that this investigation comes far too late to help all of the victims of the alleged crimes.  However, nonetheless, there are at least three reasons to proceed.

 

  1. “There may still be an opportunity to secure justice for some orphanage victims.  The recent allegations include reports of at least three child killings.  Murder is a crime with no statute of limitations, and the long-standing policy of Burlington and State police is to keep murder cases open until they are solved.  If it is possible to make murder charges at this point we will, whether the perpetrators are living or dead.

 

  1. “The stories of the victims must be heard and told.  I believe these reports of abuse, and twice our community failed the children of St. Joseph.  First, we failed them by allowing these terrible, intolerable conditions to persist in this community for decades.  Then, in the 1990s when dozens former orphanage residents came forward to report what had occurred, the justice system did not provide justice and closure for these survivors. 

 

“This morning we are asking the survivors, their families and friends to come forward again to share your stories.  By the end of the week the task force will set up a system for survivors to contact us and share what they know, so we may have a full and in-depth accounting of what occurred at St. Joseph’s.  We pledge to do thorough investigation and a public accounting of what occurred.

 

  1. “We must fully understand what happened at St. Joseph’s and why to ensure that it never happens again.  It is shocking to be confronted with reports that horrific, systematic abuse took place within the tightknit, compassionate community for decades.  How do we as a community ensure that we mistakes like this are not made again?  How do we ensure that our institutions responsible for caring for the most vulnerable succeed at their critical missions.  These are questions that this investigation must seek to answer.

 

“I welcome Bishop Coyne’s statement yesterday that the Catholic Church will cooperate fully in this investigation. This commitment stands in stark contrast to the Church’s prior posture towards the St. Joseph’s Orphanage in prior decades, and even from decisions made by church authorities in other states during recent investigations.  We have contacted Bishop Coyne’s offices this morning and intend to sit down and begin discussing this collaboration as soon as possible.

 

“I also want to thank our partners the State Police, the State’s Attorney, and the Attorney General for moving so quickly to stand together this morning.  Together we have the capacity to bring an overdue reckoning for the survivors of St. Joseph’s. Thank you.”

 

###

 

Press Release Date: 
09/10/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:   Jordan Redell, City of Burlington

                     802-881-7020

     

                     Ara Hagan, Hagan Associates

                     802-863-5956, ext 206
                    
ahagan@haganmarketing.com

 

Burlington, VT – The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition – which includes Parks Foundation of Burlington, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, the Episcopal Church in Vermont, and the City of Burlington – announced the goal of permanently protecting critical shoreline forests and improving public access to a 163-acre forest block in the heart of Burlington to be protected and forever open to the public. This urban wilderness stretches from Lake Champlain to North Avenue and provides the scenic backdrop for the Burlington Waterfront’s spectacular sunsets and provides a welcoming sanctuary for reflection and recreation in the heart of Burlington.

 

“Over the last six years the City has succeeded at expanding public access to and enjoyment of Lake Champlain by creating new parks and improving public lake access in the Urban Reserve, behind the Water Plant, and on the western acres of Cambrian Rise,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Expanding and improving public access to 163-acres of spectacular natural lands in the heart of the City dramatically expands this effort and will further ensure that future generations of Burlingtonians will continue to enjoy an outstanding quality of life and access to the outdoors even as we grow and evolve. When completed, City residents will have access to the Lake Champlain shoreline nearly contiguous from Perkins Pier to Rock Point. Thank you to the Episcopal Church, the other members of the Coalition, and our City team for working tirelessly to make today’s announcement possible.”

 

“We are so proud to be working to conserve one of the most ecologically significant shoreline forests in our 40-year history," noted Chris Boget, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust. “Not only does this incredible conservation project protect the water quality of Lake Champlain, it also allows folks to visit the old-growth trees, majestic cliffs, and restored trails of this magnificent natural area.”

 

The Coalition has worked together to conserve 113.5 acres at Rock Point with easements to allow for conservation and public access and improve the trail system on an additional 50 acres of the adjacent Arms Forest. The fundraising goal for conservation, stewardship, and trail improvements for public use is $818,000. Funds have now been contributed through the City’s Conservation Legacy Fund, supporters of the Coalition groups, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the State of Vermont Recreational Trails Program, and private donors, leaving the Coalition with less than $50,000 to reach our goal.

 

“The conservation and stewardship of Rock Point fulfills the vision of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, which has owned Rock Point since 1865. We wanted to protect it and also provide a welcoming sanctuary in the heart of Burlington for a growing city. Through our community gardens, camp, conference center and many programs, we serve the wider community, while also doing our part to care for creation," said Bishop Thomas Ely. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is also making an investment of over $1.9 million in upgrading its facilities and trails, purchasing a 35-tracker solar array, and providing for future stewardship though its separate Partnership Campaign for Rock Point.

 

This is great news for our community and demonstrates the strength of the Coalition. Our collaboration has inspired dozens of residents to contribute to our silent capital campaign. Today we launch the public phase of the campaign, and we are excited to have a long-time friend and loyal supporter who will match all new donations, dollar-for-dollar, to help us close out the campaign," said John Bossange, Chair of the Parks Foundation of Burlington.

 

Donations can be sent securely online by visiting: www.parksfoundationburlington.org or www.LCLT.org. Or mailed to: Parks Foundation, 645 Pine St., Suite B, Burlington, VT 05401 or Lake Champlain Land Trust, 1 Main St., Suite 205, Burlington, VT 05401.

 

# # #

 

Protecting Natural Resources

Conservation of this land protects several different natural communities including Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest, Dry Oak-Hickory-Hophornbeam Forest, and a rare Lake Sand Beach natural community. The protected land would also conserve the habitat for dozens of rare and state-threatened species including Harsh Sunflower, Sweet Joe-Pye Weed and Squarerose Goldenrod.

 

The Rock Point Peninsula is home to the Champlain Thrust Fault, which is the largest thrust vault in North America and visited by geologists from around the world. The thrust is created by two different types of bedrock, Iberville shale which sits beneath Dunham Dolostone that was formed 40 million years earlier. The inversion was created during the Taconic Orogency (440 million years ago) when the land that is now known as Maine and New Hampshire collided against present day Vermont and created the Green Mountains. The entire thrust fault extends from the Catskills to Canada, but is uniquely visible on the Rock Point Peninsula.

 

Project Background

The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition was formed in 2017 with a mission to permanently protect the Rock Point forest, create safe access points from the Burlington Bike Path and local neighborhoods, ensure that the area will remain accessible to the public forever, and improve the trails of this urban natural area.

 

The Lake Champlain Land Trust (LCLT) and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) will hold a Conservation and Public Access Easement on lands owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont. The project uniquely combines private ownership with public access trails, as LCLT, VHCB, and the City of Burlington will ensure natural resource protection and permanent access to the property.

 

The project will help to tie the current trails to the greater trail network of the area, which includes connectivity between the City of Burlington's Arms Forest and the Burlington Bike Path/Greenway. In addition, public access from North Beach will enhance the experience of our residents and visitors to North Beach and the Campground.

 

About The Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition Organizations

 

The Parks Foundation of Burlington

The Parks Foundation of Burlington is an independent, 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed in 2013 with the purpose to seek opportunities to enhance park assets and recreation programs in Burlington, Vermont through specific initiatives. The Foundation’s signature project—a full renovation of the eight mile-long Burlington Bike Path—is well underway and completed sections are receiving rave reviews from path users.

 

Friends of Rock Point and the Episcopal Church in Vermont

Since 1855, Rock Point has served as a unique center of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, welcoming friends and neighbors attracted to its natural beauty and its peaceful, quiet, and social embrace. Each year, nearly 10,000 people come to Rock Point, finding a place to walk, seek solitude, learn, play, sing, pray, think, share, and be. The mission of the Rock Point Center is to be a welcoming sanctuary of spirituality, creativity, community, education, training, and environmental stewardship. Friends of Rock Point is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed to support the conservation and enhancement of Rock Point.

 

Lake Champlain Land Trust

The Lake Champlain Land Trust is a member-supported, 501(c)3 non-profit organization working with the community for the last 40 years to save land, conserve places to hike and paddle, and protect Lake Champlain’s water quality. The Lake Champlain Land Trust has conserved over 10,000 acres, 17 islands, and 21 miles of lake and river shoreline in both Vermont and New York—including more than 27 public access areas. The Lake Champlain Land Trust will hold several conservation easements and forever monitor the protections of the Rock Point land.

 

Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront oversees all of Burlington’s 35+ Parks and Recreation Programs covering 550+ Acres of Open Space, four public beaches, street trees and Greenways, Community Gardens, North Beach Campground, the Community Boathouse Marina, and other lands and facilities.

 

            

 

Press Release Date: 
07/30/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2018
Contact: Jordan Redell

                 802.881.7020

 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger released the following statement in response to a wet weather discharge event that occurred late last night:
 

“During last night’s storm, a hardware failure at Burlington’s wastewater treatment facility caused a large, unplanned release of treated, but non-disinfected, wet weather discharge into Lake Champlain. These unintended, avoidable releases are completely unacceptable to to Burlingtonians, to Vermonters, and to me. The City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) has a core responsibility to properly treat our sewage and stormwater and fully protect the lake.

 

“In response to this discharge, I have directed DPW Director Chapin Spencer, who appreciates and fully understands the importance of resolving this issue, to: 1) immediately devote every available resource, including outside experts, to fully investigate the causes of the recent mechanical discharges and to immediately implement fixes to prevent them from happening again; and 2) complete by December 1, 2018 the capital upgrade planning for the wastewater plants currently underway to give the City Council and the voters the opportunity to consider investing in needed improvements on Town Meeting Day 2019.”

 

*To read the Mayor’s recent statement regarding the City’s ongoing work to protect our lake, please visit our Mayor’s Office website.

 

# # #

Press Release Date: 
07/11/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 19, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617
 

City Council Unanimously Approves Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
Continues City’s Momentum Investing in Infrastructure, Public Safety, and Our Most Vulnerable, While Also Limiting Property Tax Rate Increases

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced City Council’s unanimous approval of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget at the June 18, 2018 Council meeting.

 

“The goals the Administration set for this year’s budget were ambitious: continue the City’s momentum investing in infrastructure, public safety, and a host of efforts to protect and support our kids and vulnerable populations, while also continuing to limit property tax rate increases,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “We have done all of that and more, thanks to the hard work of CAO Beth Anderson and her team, our Department Heads and their teams, and the support of City Council. And, for the first time, the City’s unassigned fund balance has grown through good budget management to a level that exceeds the City’s 10 percent target. This gives us the opportunity to invest in a number of new projects that will continue the City’s progress reducing future costs and improving operations and services provided to taxpayers.”

 

Please see the full text of Mayor Miro Weinberger Fiscal Year 2019 Proposed Budget Memorandum to City Council below.

 

Mayor Miro Weinberger’s Fiscal Year 2019 Proposed Budget Memorandum to City Council

 

Herein is the Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19).  This budget builds upon the strong financial foundation re-established over the last six years through the commitment of the Administration, City Council, and Burlington voters. In particular, I would like to recognize the hard work of our Chief Administrative Officer, Beth Anderson, who has led the budget process for the first time this year, the members of her team, and the City Department Heads and their teams, who deserve a great deal of credit for our financial progress.

 

This budget will continue to advance important community goals while also making prudent and strategic investments designed to help reduce future taxpayer costs. The total budget reflects feedback from four work sessions with the City Council in May, and includes over $200 million in total annual expenditures. This memo summarizes the highlights of the FY19 budget.

 

Summary: The FY19 City Budget continues the city’s progress on infrastructure, public safety, and new equity initiatives while also continuing property tax restraint and fiscal improvement

The goals the Administration set for this year’s budget were ambitious: continue the City’s momentum investing in infrastructure, public safety, a host of relatively new efforts to protect and support our kids and vulnerable populations (the low-barrier shelter, the Burlington Early Learning initiative, the Street Outreach program) and other emerging needs, while also continuing the half-penny tax cut to the General City Tax rate first made in FY17.  Keeping operational taxation at the same level was challenging, as it has now been five years since we increased the property tax rate for municipal operations and, unlike most municipal expenses, this primary municipal funding source does not increase as inflation rises. 

 

I am pleased to submit to you a budget that achieves these important goals.

 

FY19 Budget is Built on a Strong Municipal Financial Position

In November 2017, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the City’s credit rating from A3 to A2, representing an upgrade of four steps in three years. In explaining their decision, Moody’s Financial Services (which provides an independent assessment of the creditworthiness of the City) called out the City's improved financial position with sound reserves following four consecutive years of operating surpluses, as well as the City’s strength as the economic center of Vermont (Aaa stable).  This budget should enable the City to continue to improve its financial position as has been our collective goal for years.

 

The City continues to make great strides with its other enterprise funds. In March 2018, Moody’s upgraded the Burlington International Airport credit rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and revised the Airport’s credit outlook from positive to stable. This is the second credit rating upgrade the Airport has earned since 2014 and represents its highest rating since prior to the multiple downgrades of the Airport in 2010.  In its Credit Report, Moody’s stated that “the upgrade reflects continued improvement in liquidity and stability in debt service coverage, combined with a strengthened cost recovery framework following the adoption of a five-year airline agreement that is residual in nature and provides for a 1.5x DSCR and 200 days cash on hand.”

 

Moody’s also affirmed in November 2017 the Burlington Electric Department’s “A3” credit rating and affirmed the City’s Water Utility “A1”.  The BED rating cited a number of credit strengths, including: strong and focused management working on industry transition, including ensuring utility fixed cost recovery through rate structure, and diverse and substantially renewable power supply resource mix, which mitigates industry challenges such as market price disruptions and carbon regulation.  In its rating summary for the Water System Revenue Bonds, Moody’s recognized the City for its stable service area and ample system capacity, healthy debt service coverage and improving liquidity, and sound legal security provisions.

 

Further, the Administration continues efforts across City departments to identify opportunities to operate more efficiency and identify potential cost savings.  Our work includes consolidated purchasing, process improvements, and expanding data analysis to identify opportunities.   The benefits of these efforts can be seen in the reduced operational costs experienced in FY18 and the additional reductions projected for FY19.

 

Early Achievement of Unassigned Fund Balance Target Creates Investment Opportunity   

An exciting element of this year’s budget is that we have an opportunity to make important municipal investments to reduce future costs and improve operations with approximately $2 million of Unassigned Fund Balance reserves that exceed the targets that we set several years ago.

 

In 2015, the Administration and the City Council set a new Fund Balance Policy that called for the accrual of an Unassigned Fund Balance of at least 5 percent and no more than 15 percent by FY19.  The purpose of the policy is to create a healthy operating reserve for the City that will help insulate it in future years from unpredictable changes in the economy or unexpected events, and the creation of this new policy was specifically cited by Moody’s as a major factor in their 2016 credit rating upgrade restoring the City’s A rating.

 

The initial policy envisioned the City reaching the 5 percent threshold by 2019.  We outpaced this projection substantially, and ended FY17 with an Unassigned Fund Balance of $8.4 million, a figure representing approximately 14 percent of operating costs.  We are proposing opportunities to invest Unassigned Fund Balance dollars in excess of the 10 percent to support a number of projects that we believe would result in benefits to the City, including improved service to residents, operational efficiencies, and cost savings.  We have included $848,000 in investments in the budget at this time, and plan on pursuing three separate studies that will likely result in additional recommendations for investment by the end of the calendar year.  The largest current proposal is to commit $500,000 for the upcoming reappraisal, which we now have a statutory obligation to pursue in a timely fashion.  This commitment, combined with funds we have set aside in past years, should give us approximately sufficient funds to complete that major work without the need to raise taxes for that purpose.

 

By separate cover I have submitted a memo and chart to you with additional detail about these current and possible future investments.

 

FY19 Budget Continues Investments in Public Safety

Burlington remains one of the safest cities in America, but like every other city across the country, we are facing major law enforcement and public health challenges in the form of a growing opioid crisis, years of increases in the number of requests for service related to mental health issues, and public demands for changes in the way we police.

 

The FY19 Budget sustains all of the investments in public safety in recent years while making a number of important new investments, including:

  • Increasing the Police Department funding to grow the authorized size of the department to 105 sworn officers (from 103.5 in FY18 and 100 in FY17).  The impact of this increase on Burlington taxpayers is mitigated by the second year of our three-year federal grant providing matching funds for this additional staffing.
  • Funding a new pilot to bring a mental health counselor for the Burlington Fire Department.  Our firefighters are on front lines of mental health and opioid crises and often experience very traumatic situations.  We have long offered mental health supports to our police officers and this represents an important new investment in the wellbeing of our outstanding firefighters.
  • Providing for a pilot expansion of the lifeguard season at North Beach, in response to Burlington Fire Chief Steven Locke’s fall 2017 policy review following the tragic death of Burlington High School student Christian Kibabu. We will be piloting this expansion at North Beach because it continues to be the most frequently visited beach in Burlington, and will assess it after the end of this summer season.
  • The investment made in a new Computer Assisted Dispatch system in FY18 will result in the launch of this new operational capacity in early FY19 and expenses related to this new system are now part of the Fire Department’s operating budget.
  • Continuing to grow the capability of the Fire Department’s paramedicine capability.  By the end of FY19 we project to have 13 paramedics (up from nine currently), nearing the full-staffing goal of 15 that will ensure the City sends a paramedic on all medical calls.

 

FY19 Budget Includes Important Investments in Kids, Seniors and the Most Vulnerable

The FY19 budget includes continued support for recent investments to expand opportunity for Burlingtonians of all backgrounds and incomes, including:

 

  • Funding for Early Learning Initiative. The budget includes a second year of funding for the Early Learning Initiative (ELI) focused on Burlington children from birth to age 3. In FY18, the City provided $500,000 in capacity grants to Burlington childcare programs that provide high-quality care to low income children and commit to increasing the number of slots available for children ages 0 – 3. The initial grant attracted one small but important application, and the City moved quickly into a second round of grant awards that resulted in seven applications exceeding $500,000.  We look forward to bringing these strong proposals to the Council for approval in the coming weeks.  In year two, consistent with discussions with the Council’s CDNR Committee, we anticipate the program transitioning to funding high quality child care scholarships for low-income infants and toddlers.

 

  • Extended Low-barrier Shelter Pilot. Over the past four winters, the City has supported the work of CVOEO, COTS, and most recently the Community Health Centers of Burlington to run a low barrier warming shelter from November to April. The shelter has been successful in reducing the State’s motel room cold weather exception program costs, saving taxpayers substantial money each year, and helped some of our most vulnerable residents find jobs and permanent housing. In FY18, we reserved $60,000 in matching funds to support extending the shelter year round.  We encountered operational and financial challenges with this plan and the shelter remains on the same calendar at this time.  However, we have continued our conversations with key partners (the Community Health Center of Burlington – the operator of the facility – and other potential funders), and are now confident of being able to offer some extended operations in calendar year 2019 if we carry-forward last year’s $60,000 appropriation.  Our focus now is to operate the shelter for as many additional months as possible in 2019 as a pilot effort, and to assess whether such extended operations result in positive outcomes for the users and City operations.  We will continue to provide the CDNR Committee updates on our progress on this initiative.

 

  • Expanded Funding of Senior Centers.  Both the Champlain Senior Center – now operated by the City’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department – and the Heineberg Community Senior Center will experience reduced funding in FY19 from other funders.  The FY19 budget will give the City the ability to replace this recently lost funding in the upcoming year and to work with the senior centers to ensure long-term financial stability.  

 

  • Enhanced Funding of the Housing Trust Fund.  The FY19 budget again includes $175,000 of supplemental funding for the Housing Trust Fund to increase the City’s contribution to the equivalent of a one cent assessment of the Grand List. 

 

FY19 Budget Supports Continued Implementation of Sustainable Infrastructure Plan

The FY19 Budget includes continued investments in the City’s infrastructure at historically high levels.  Highlights of this investment include:

  • The funding necessary to complete summer 2018 rebuilding of large stretches of North Avenue, Colchester Avenue, Plattsburgh Avenue, and other roads.  Altogether, in 2018 we will approach 300 percent of the typical road paving investment.
  • Another fiscal year at nearly triple the historic level of investment in our sidewalks.
  • The building of two new Bike Path pause places and design work for additional investment in the southern three miles of the Bike Path in calendar year 2019.

 

This public infrastructure investment will result in an approximately two-cent increase in FY19 in the dedicated tax related to debt service payments.  This is consistent with the multi-year projected tax increases communicated in advance of the November 2016 bond vote supported by approximately three-quarters of Burlington voters.

 

Continued Investment in Water Infrastructure Enhancements

As in FY18, the FY19 enterprise fund budgets include enhanced capital investment in the City’s water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.  The budget includes a combined 4.95 percent increase in the City’s water/wastewater/stormwater rates to continue addressing deferred capital needs, and to address revenue reductions the water and wastewater funds are receiving as a result of the long-standing but recently discovered billing errors.  The average age of the City’s water mains is 75 years – and a full quarter of our system is over 100 years old.  In 2017, Burlington piloted a water main relining program that is cheaper and causes less disturbance than excavating and replacing pipes. DPW applied lessons learned from that effort to complete substantially more work last summer, and will continue to do that work this summer.

 

FY19 Budget Continues Fourth Year of Flat Operating Taxes, While Debt + Retirement Tax Rise

The FY19 Budget includes an overall municipal tax rate increase of 4.16 percent.  Key information about this increase includes:

  • At the new rate of $0.8344, the total rate is just 4.35 percent higher than it was four years ago. 
  • No new revenue is being raised for general operating costs.  The total of the operating-related taxes remain set at a rate approximately 1 percent lower than the assessments four years ago.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the tax increase was driven by an increase in the voter-approved debt service tax.  As noted above, this increase is consistent with the projections supplied to voters prior to the November 2016 vote on the $27 million Sustainable Infrastructure Bond.
  • The remaining increase is the result of a 7.25 percent increase in the Retirement Tax, the first increase since FY15.  Some additional notes on this increase:          
    • This increase is driven in part by updated actuarial projections which have reallocated some of the City’s projected pension liability onto the general fund instead of enterprise funds.
    • The increase is also partially driven by the failure of the fund’s high assumed 8 percent rate of return, which has been difficult to meet in recent years (this policy is being reviewed by the Burlington Employee Retirement System).
    • The budget assumes that this year City taxpayers will pay 72 percent and employees will pay 28 percent of the annual actuarially determined contributions required to maintain the BERS, approximately the same percentages paid in the current fiscal year.  The actual percentages will be determined as a result of collective bargaining negotiations with the City’s unions, which are currently underway. The current 72/28 split represents substantial progress for taxpayers, since prior to the last round of retirement systems reforms when taxpayers were responsible for approximately 80 percent of costs.  This split is consistent with the way in which costs in FY18 were shared but has not been fully negotiated with public employees for FY19, as those contracts are in active negotiation.
    • Despite three years of level Retirement Tax payments and the achievement of employee risk-sharing and cost-sharing more consistent with national averages, the Administration remains concerned about the long-term BERS trends.  We anticipate continued discussions in FY19 about strengthening the system and controlling its cost impact on the municipal budget.

 

Conclusion: the FY19 Budget represents the continuation of the financial and programmatic progress we have forged together over the prior six years.  The FY19 budget coming before the City Council is very much in line with the significant progress we have made together over the last six years.  I again thank you for your help with the development of the FY19 budget and respectfully request your strong support for it on June 18, 2018.

 

Thank you.

Press Release Date: 
06/19/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2018
Contact: Gene Richards, Director of Aviation, 802.343.9909
                 Katie Vane, Mayor’s Office, 802.734.0617

 

Moody’s Investors Service Upgrades Burlington International Airport Credit Rating to “Baa2”
Represents Highest Rating Since Prior to 2010 Financial Troubles; Moody’s Cites Airport’s Continued Improved Liquidity, Stability in Debt Service Coverage Ratios, and Airline Agreement
 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger and Aviation Director Gene Richards today announced that Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the Burlington International Airport credit rating to Baa2 from Baa3 (please see the complete Airport ratings table below), and revised the Airport’s credit outlook from positive to stable. This is the second credit rating upgrade the Airport has earned since 2014 and represents its highest rating since prior to the multiple downgrades of the Airport in 2010 due to revelations of serious financial mismanagement.

In its Credit Report, released on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Moody’s stated that “the upgrade reflects continued improvement in liquidity and stability in debt service coverage, combined with a strengthened cost recovery framework following the adoption of a five-year airline agreement that is residual in nature and provides for a 1.5x DSCR and 200 days cash on hand.” DSCR is the ratio of net revenues available (operating net revenues less operating expenses) to pay for debt principal and interest. 

“This upgrade is great news for the Airport and another sign that the public’s support of our efforts to strengthen the City’s finances is continuing to yield results,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Thank you to the Airport team and CAO’s office for the years of focused, hard work that have made this upgrade possible.”
 

“This upgrade reflects Moody’s confidence in our team’s ability to react to industry and regional changes, and to continue providing exceptional service to our traveling public,” said Aviation Director Gene Richards. “Moody’s recognizes the continuous growth in the Airport’s liquidity in the form of cash reserves, sustained efforts to improve financial stability, manageable cost per enplanement, signed five year agreements with the airlines, and our ability to achieve the Debt Coverage Score of 1.5x year after year. The credit for this significant accomplishment goes to the entire Burlington International Airport team, as well as the City of Burlington team of Rich Goodwin, Beth Anderson, and Mayor Miro Weinberger, for his personal involvement and commitment to strong airport finances. We are also very fortunate to have built strong relationships with our airline partners, who serve the region so well.”
 

The Airport has seen numerous positive trends in recent months, including:

  • The strongest first quarter (Jan-Mar 2018) number of passengers since 2008. 
  • A 19 percent increase in passengers in April 2018, which represents the single largest percentage growth of any month since 2005. 
  • Delta Air Lines has added new routes flying to New York (JFK) and American Airlines is starting new service to Chicago (ORD) in early June. The Airport is able to accommodate this increase in both larger and additional planes (capacity in airside) and customers within the Terminal (landside facilities).  
  • Level debt payments for the Airport’s debt service. The Airport it is not looking to take on any additional borrowings at this time.

 

Additional highlights from the Moody's Report include:
The May 22, 2018 Moody’s Rating Report noted that Burlington International Airport’s status as a regional economic center will sustain a solid level of air travel demand, which the Airport is well positioned to serve. Enplanements have stabilized and are now beginning to grow with the introduction of significant new air service in Fiscal Year 2018. The expectation of stable enplanements is made manageable by the Airport’s stable cost profile, level debt service, capacity in airside and landside facilities, and manageable planned capital investment.

 

Moody’s report notes that the Airport’s active management is committed to fiscal responsibility and maintaining the Airport’s strong finances. This contributes directly to the overall financial health and success of the Airport.

 

The Report attributed the credit outlook revision to the Airport’s core financial metrics, namely DSCRs and liquidity, and enplanements. According to the Report, “The airport is well positioned to sustain its credit profile over the next 12-18 months due to the cost recovery framework provided by the new airline agreement, growing air service, economic stability in the service area, and manageable cost per enplanement (CPE) and no new borrowing.”

Future actions that could lead to another cred rating upgrade include:

  • Sustained enplanement and air service growth
  • Net revenue DSCRs above 2.0x times on a sustained basis
  • Liquidity sustained above 600 days cash on hand

 

Moody's Ratings
Date Action Rating Action Outlook
5/22/2018 Upgraded Baa2 Revised Stable
3/17/2017 Affirmed Baa3 Revised Positive
12/11/2015 Affirmed Baa3 Affirmed Stable
11/12/2014 Upgraded Baa3 Affirmed Stable
1/15/2014 Affirmed Ba1 Revised Stable
11/19/2012 Affirmed Ba1 Affirmed Negative
1/6/2012 Affirmed Ba1 Affirmed Negative
10/13/2010 Downgraded Ba1 Affirmed Negative
5/13/2010 Downgraded Baa3 Revised Negative
11/28/2005 Affirmed Baa1 Affirmed Stable

 

 

*Please see the Moody’s Rating Report

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/29/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 24, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617

 

U.S. Air Force Secretary Issues Letter Reaffirming F-35 Basing at Burlington International Airport
 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger released a letter from U.S. Air Force Secretary Dr. Heather Wilson written in response to the Mayor’s April 9, 2018 letter. The Mayor’s letter included the City Council’s March 26, 2018 resolution requesting the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force provide an alternative mission for the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) at the Burlington International Airport. This resolution was approved following a public vote in March 2018.

 

Secretary Wilson’s letter, which the Mayor’s Office received on May 23, 2018, responds to the central question posed by the Mayor, City Council, and the voting public: whether the Air Force could provide an alternative mission for the Vermont Air National Guard. Secretary Wilson writes: “We expect the first F-35 aircraft to arrive in Burlington in 2019. This decision was finalized in 2013 after a 48-month review which assessed 205 locations and concluded that the Burlington International Airport was the best Air National Guard option. If that decision were to be reversed, the Vermont Air National Guard would likely lose their flying mission upon the retirement of the F-16s. The Air Force is much smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War. We have fewer bases and fewer aircraft. As a result, some states no longer have flying missions for their National Guard and the competition to secure new missions is fierce.”

 

Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement in response to the letter:

 

“I welcome Secretary Wilson’s response to Burlington, which provides clarity in two important respects. First, it signals the United States Air Force’s continued commitment to its 2013 decision to base F-35s at the Burlington International Airport. Second, it provides a strong confirmation of what many of us have long thought: reversing the F-35 basing decision at this late date would likely lead to the end of the VTANG flying mission, jeopardizing hundreds of jobs and threatening the strength of our region’s economy. This clear, decisive communication should bring some measure of resolution of this issue to the community.”

 

Please see:

 

* Mayor’s April 9, 2018 letter to the Air Force Secretary

* Air Force Secretary’s May 23, 2018 letter to the Mayor

 

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/24/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617

Mayor Weinberger Announces Neale Lunderville to Conclude BED Service, Lead CEDO as Interim Director
Praises Burlington Electric for Great Innovation, Progress over Past Four Years

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the appointment of Neale Lunderville as Interim Director of the City’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO), effective July 16, 2018, and ensured for the Burlington community a smooth leadership transition at Burlington Electric Department (BED), where Lunderville has served as General Manager (GM) since July 2014. The Mayor has asked the City Council to approve the appointment at its June 4, 2018 meeting.

 

“Neale has distinguished himself as a proven leader and manager in the public sector at the highest levels of state and city government, including at our beloved Burlington Electric Department,” said Mayor Weinberger. “Neale’s successful reorganization of BED resulted in millions of dollars of savings, led to the launch of innovative programs to help us on the road to our Net Zero Energy City goal, and has positioned BED to be a leader in the energy revolution. I expect Neale to play a similar, pivotal transitional role in helping to reorganize CEDO and to build on that Department’s record of success.”

 

More immediately, the Mayor has named Lunderville to serve as Acting CEDO Director beginning May 26, 2018 and running through July 15, 2018. During this time, Lunderville will continue to serve as GM of BED to ensure a smooth transition. Neale’s successful four-year tenure at BED will conclude when he begins as Interim Director of CEDO. The Mayor will conduct a full national search for a new BED GM.

 

Lunderville’s general assignment during the months ahead will be to provide steady leadership to advance the important, ongoing work in which CEDO is engaged, including critical projects for the City, such as CityPlace Burlington, Memorial Auditorium, and the new Marina project. More specifically, the Mayor has directed Lunderville to make meaningful progress on the following tasks: finalize and implement CEDO’s strategic plan; engage in a strategic review of all elements of CEDO’s operations; if needed, propose a reorganization of CEDO to more effectively serve the City; and provide recommendations on future steps the next permanent Director should take to continue to make Burlington housing more affordable, invest in community and economic development, and ensure community justice.

 

Lunderville is a native Vermonter who was born in Burlington. Prior to 2014, Lunderville served as Chief Executive Officer of NG Advantage, an energy company he co-founded in 2012 that delivers compressed natural gas to industrial users. He also has served as Secretary of Administration and Secretary of Transportation for Governor Jim Douglas, and as the Tropical Storm Irene Recovery Officer for Governor Peter Shumlin. Lunderville’s work to make our community stronger extends beyond his professional work to service on various boards and involvement in charitable organizations, including Preservation Trust of Vermont, Vermont Journalism Trust, Champlain College, BTV Ignite, VELCO, and Spectrum Youth and Family Services. 

 

“Serving these past four years as GM at Burlington Electric has been a great honor, and I’m thankful that Mayor Weinberger has asked me to continue to serve the City of Burlington as Interim CEDO Director,” stated Lunderville. “I’m looking forward to working with the dedicated CEDO team to craft a strategic plan to help create more affordable housing in Burlington, invest in community and economic development, and ensure community justice throughout the City.

 

“I am deeply grateful to have worked with and learned from the incredible Burlington Electric team,” reflected Lunderville. “The BED staff is truly committed to safely delivering reliable, low-cost, renewable energy to our Burlington community. They make all the difference. Together, we have built on the utility’s well-earned reputation and launched BED into the energy revolution with purpose and pride. In every part of BED, we’re doing our work better, smarter, and – most importantly – more safely.”

 

Please see following and documents, including:

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/23/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 11, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane, Mayor’s Office, 802.734.0617
                  Chief Don Stevens, Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation, 802.985.2465

 

City of Burlington and Abenaki Alliance Announce Discussions to Promote Awareness of Abenaki History and Culture

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger and Chief Don Stevens from the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation today announced that the City of Burlington and Vermont Abenaki Alliance (made up of the four Abenaki Tribes recognized by the State of Vermont) have agreed to explore several projects to promote awareness of Abenaki history and culture. This announcement is the result of conversations between the City and Chief Stevens that arose during the discussion of the Church Street “Everyone Loves a Parade” mural. In lieu of participating in the Mural Task Force to determine the future of the mural, Chief Stevens and the Abenaki Alliance have chosen to pursue other projects, which will include an annual summer event on Church Street and may include a display of cultural artifacts at the Burlington International Airport, among other potential projects. These projects will build on Burlington’s previous work with Abenaki communities to create the Chief Grey Lock statue in Battery Park and the City Council’s acknowledgment and support of recognition of the Abenaki Nation in September of 1995.
 

“Abenaki Tribes have a long history within the State of Vermont and with the City of Burlington,” said Chief Don Stevens. “As leaders within our Abenaki communities, the Chiefs have decided not to participate in the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ Mural Task Force, but to find other positive avenues to promote our culture within the City. We look forward to collaborating with the City on projects that will increase local and international awareness of Abenaki history and culture. Finally, if the mural is to be changed or altered, we do feel that the Native person depicted on the mural should accurately and historically represent Abenaki people from this region.”
 

“I appreciated Chief Don Stevens’ input as we have been working through the community challenges related to the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ mural,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The City welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the Abenaki Alliance to find ways of properly recognizing the role of the Abenaki in the history and future of this region.”

 

 

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/11/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 4, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617

 

Mayor Weinberger Commends Vermont Legislature for Passage of S. 166

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today commended the Vermont Legislature for its passage on May 4, 2018 of S. 166, a bill that will vastly improve how those struggling with opioid addiction are assessed and treated in prisons across Vermont:

 

“Today’s passage by the Legislature of S. 166 marks an important milestone in our efforts to free Burlington and Vermont from the grip of the terrible opioid epidemic, which now takes the lives of over 100 Vermonters every year. Guaranteeing State prisoners access to addiction medicines will save lives – Rhode Island saw a 60 percent drop in overdose deaths among individuals being released from prison after putting in place comparable protections – and it will create hope that incarceration can lead to rehabilitation for the hundreds of Vermonters who are imprisoned every year as a direct result of their struggle with addiction. Thank you to the legislators who advocated for this bill’s passage, the Department of Health for its partnership in the fight against the opioid epidemic, and the Agency of Human Services’ Department of Corrections for having already taken great strides towards providing medication-assisted treatment in its prisons. Burlington and Chittenden County look forward to continuing our collaborative, urgent work with the State on this issue.”

 

 

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/04/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 2, 2018
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617

City of Burlington Issues Annual Report on Livable Wage Ordinance
Finds Broad Compliance, Takes Enforcement Actions against Violations for the First Time

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger and City Attorney Eileen Blackwood today released the annual report of actions the City of Burlington has taken in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) to enforce the City’s Livable Wage Ordinance, which requires City employees and employees of contractors retained by the City to earn a livable wage. The City investigated two new complaints, conducted three records compliance checks, and for the first time issued municipal tickets for a Livable Wage violation and suspended the business from operating as a City contractor. The contractor has paid the waiver fee of $200 for each of five tickets, has supplied each employee with restitution for lost wages, and has been suspended from working on City contracts for nine months until June 1.
 

“The City’s Livable Wage enforcement system in 2013 did little to ensure that City of Burlington contractors complied with the Ordinance,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “For more than five years, we have worked to fix the system, and this fiscal year we took strong enforcement actions to ensure that covered workers are paid the wages they deserve. This progress would not have been possible without the hard work and diligence of our City Attorney’s Office, CAO, and Designated Accountability Monitor.”
 

“Over the past five years, the City Attorney’s Office, the CAO and the Designated Accountability Monitor have committed to increasing awareness and understanding of, and compliance with, the City’s Livable Wage Ordinance by ensuring annual certifications are received from contractors, conducting trainings and disseminating information, responding to complaints, and now in FY18 commencing regular compliance checks and imposing enforcement penalties,” said City Attorney Eileen Blackwood. “Our goal in the coming fiscal year is to work on targeted training for City staff and contractors, while continuing to hold the City and its contractors accountable for ensuring that all covered employees receive a livable wage.”
 

Background: Five Years of Ordinance Reform and Increased Enforcement
The City of Burlington adopted its Livable Wage Ordinance in 2001, however, there was little enforcement of the ordinance with respect to City contractors in the years leading up to 2013.  In 2013, at Mayor Weinberger’s direction, City Attorney Eileen Blackwood and the City Attorney’s Office conducted a comprehensive review of all City contracts covered by the ordinance, finding that fewer than half of the 160 contracts reviewed even referenced the Livable Wage and only 14 percent were in full compliance.  Immediately after the report, the City began enforcing the Ordinance aggressively, including the requirements that contractors provide an annual certification of compliance with the Ordinance and incorporating compliance language into contracts.  A Livable Wage webpage was created to provide better access to the Livable Wage information. 

 

In October 2013, the City amended the Ordinance to clarify the type of contracts included in it and to include certain seasonal or temporary employees of the City.  In addition, compliance provisions were added to allow the City’s Chief Administrative Officer to conduct compliance checks and the City Attorney’s Office to investigate complaints and impose penalties.  The revised Ordinance also calls for the appointment of a Designated Accountability Monitor that provides training, reviews employee complaints, and monitors workplaces, as well as the establishment of an annual Livable Wage report to the City Council from the City Attorney’s Office.
 

FY18 and FY19 Livable Wage
In FY18, the livable wage for City employees remained the same as FY17:  $14.24 if the employer offers health insurance, $15.83 if it does not.

 

Pursuant to the City of Burlington Code of Ordinances, Chapter 21, Article VI, section 21-82(b), the livable wage rates for covered employers, including the City of Burlington, for Fiscal Year 2019 (as of July 1, 2018), will be $14.52 per hour if the employer offers health insurance, or $16.20 if the employer does not.
 

This notice and the livable wage has been posted in City Hall, on the City's webpage, circulated to City departments, provided to the Designated Accountability Monitor, and is available at the Clerk/Treasurer's Office. A copy of this notice will also be provided to covered employers who request individual notice and provide contact information.
 

* See FY18 Annual Report on Livable Wage Ordinance

# # #

Press Release Date: 
05/02/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

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