City of Burlington, Vermont

City of Burlington, Vermont

City Hall, 149 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401
Call Us 802-865-7000 M-F 8-4:30pm   Email Us

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 23, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                 802.735.7962

Moody’s Investors Service Improves BED’s Credit Rating Outlook
BED Improves Power Supply Diversity and Debt Service Coverage Ratios

Burlington, VT – Moody’s Investors Service yesterday published a Ratings Report, in which Moody’s improved Burlington Electric Department’s credit rating outlook to Baa2 positive from Baa2 stable.  This boost comes only seven months after Moody’s improved BED’s outlook from negative to stable. 

The Moody’s report includes the following summary explaining the outlook improvement:  “The outlook change to positive from stable reflects our belief that the department will continue to reduce its exposure to the power supply market through long term contracts and diversify the power supply portfolio through the acquisition of the Winooski hydro facility.  The outlook change also reflects our expectation of stable or improving debt service coverage ratios and other financial metrics.”

“This is very impressive news and shows a continuation of a positive trend,” said Mayor Weinberger.  “This upgrade is consistent with the outlook improvements Moody’s recently announced for the Airport and the City.  It is satisfying to see that the Administration’s and City Council’s sustained focus on restoring Burlington’s finances is securing steady gains.”

“Mayor Weinberger and BED’s leadership team and Commission deserve credit for keeping a sharp focus on improving the utility's financial position,” said Neale Lunderville, BED interim general manager.  “Improvements like this will help BED secure lower interest rates and reduce pressure on electric rates.  Strong financial management is part of BED’s continued commitment to the customers we serve.”

The report also summarizes the Baa2 rating rationale:  “The Baa2 rating reflects the department’s strength as the exclusive provider of electric service to the city as well as its stable customer base which includes the University of Vermont. The Baa2 also reflects rates which are regulated by the state public service board (PSB), exposing the department to regulatory lag risk, which is unusual for public power utilities that generally benefit from local rate setting authority. The PSB has approved all department rate requests for the last two decades, evidencing a supportive regulatory regime. The rating also reflects the department's improved power supply diversity and debt service coverage ratios (DSCR) in recent years.”

*Moody’s Investors Service BED Ratings Report attached.
 

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Press Release Date: 
07/23/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 15, 2014
Contact:               Chapin Spencer
                              802.865.5818

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Downtown Parking Changes to Improve Visitor Experience and Ensure Sustainable Parking System

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that the City of Burlington will implement several changes to the downtown parking system to both improve the customer experience and to ensure the City has a sustainable plan for maintaining the parking system and infrastructure in the downtown.  For the past year, a public/private partnership comprised of the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Burlington Business Association (BBA), and the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) has worked to address longstanding concerns of residents, merchants, and visitors about downtown parking.  The partnership engaged community groups like the Parking Advisory Committee, a group of citizens from various sectors of the community, and national parking experts as part of the process to develop comprehensive policy changes for our downtown parking system.  Last night, the City Council approved the purchase of over 300 digital smart meters that accept credit cards and track parking data on a space-by-space basis.  And tomorrow, the DPW Commission will vote on a number of complementary changes and rate adjustments.

“I am pleased that the City is moving toward making our downtown parking system more convenient, safer, and financially viable over the long-term,” said Mayor Weinberger.  “I urge the DPW Commission to approve the rate changes and adjustments necessary for making these prudent, overdue investments in the City’s infrastructure.”

Tom Brassard, Board Chair of the BBA, supported the Mayor’s comments: “The parking experience can mean the difference between happy customers who come back to our downtown or not. The BBA recognizes the importance of, and need for, delivering the best parking experience in downtown Burlington. Our current parking system is functional but outdated. We are in the process of improving the system to allow it to be self-supporting and provide a better customer experience. This current initiative is an important first step.”

Chapin Spencer, DPW Director, added, “These changes will greatly improve the City’s ability to be flexible and responsive to customer needs, while also bringing much-needed revenue to the Traffic Fund.  The data collection possibilities available through the new technology involved in our pilot projects will help the City better understand how customers park in our downtown.  At the same time, the rate adjustments will improve availability of prime spaces while allowing for necessary investment to maintain the parking system safely.  We believe we’ll see a great increase in customer satisfaction.” 

WHY MAKE THESE CHANGES NOW?
There is a real cost associated with parking, and the current rate changes will bring much-needed revenue to keep the Traffic Fund solvent and enable the City to maintain its parking garage infrastructure safely, as well as make investments in technology to improve the overall system and make the capital investments called for in a recently completed garage assessment. The last rate changes for downtown parking occurred in 2008 and 2009.   

ANTICIPATED BENEFITS OF SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS:
The proposed rate changes are estimated to generate an additional $493,000 in FY15, used to support the following benefits:

  • Purchase of about 300 smart meters for the downtown core that accept credit cards and are compatible with future pay-by-phone services
  • Make approximately $100,000 of immediate capital repairs on the garages
  • Close the current $250,000 FY15 budget deficit in the Traffic Fund and restore a positive fund balance for anticipated future investments in aging garage facilities and unforeseen emergencies 
  • Enhance operational investments in security and janitorial services in the City’s parking garages
  • Pricing structure changes will increase turnover and parking availability in high demand on-street locations – even while removing time limits, a current source of customer frustration
  • Installation of a comprehensive downtown wayfinding system to make it easier to find available parking downtown
  • Enable the Traffic Fund to invest in new technology – including the smart meters to facilitate data collection so the City can better assess effectiveness of changes and customer utilization – and an automated lane in the Marketplace garage that will offer quicker and more convenient exiting
  • A 90-day pilot installation of five multi-space meter kiosks downtown will offer the opportunity to compare new single-space and multi-space meters side by side
     

RATE CHANGES:

  • Increase rates at the new smart meters in a portion of the downtown core to $1.50/hour with no time limit (15 minute meters will remain the same)
  • Extend enforcement times at the new smart meters to 10:00 pm to ensure turnover and availability of prime spaces (Note:  Daytime rates will remain the same, and parking after 6:00 pm will still be free outside the designated downtown core.)
  • Increase hourly rate at Marketplace garage by $2/hour up to a new maximum of $10/day
  • Increase the hourly rate at Lakeview and College garages by $1/hour, while maintaining the current $8/day limit
  • 2 hours free parking policy remains at all three City-owned garages
  • Increase monthly lease rates by $5-6/month
  • Increase meter hood fees to $15 for 12-hour bags and $30 for 24-hour bags

The Downtown Parking Initiative is part of a larger review of the City’s parking and transportation infrastructure, which includes four parking-related studies currently underway (with lead consultants and target completion dates):

Downtown Parking & Travel Plan (Desman Associates, early 2015)
Parking Garage Assessment (Hoyle Tanner & Associates, July 2014)
Transportation Demand Management Action Plan (RSG, early 2015)
Parking Study in Residential Areas (RSG, early 2015)

 

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Press Release Date: 
07/15/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 10, 2014
Contact:  Jennifer Kaulius
                802.865.7272
                 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Statement in Support of Women’s Health Care Access

“My Administration remains fully committed to maintaining the right of women to access health centers.  I support the City Attorney’s recommendation that the City Council review Burlington’s ordinance and consider additional amendments to strengthen the protection of these rights in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling.  My Administration will work with the City Council to complete this important work as quickly as possible.”

*Please see City Attorney Eileen Blackwood’s memo for more information on this topic by clicking here.
 

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Press Release Date: 
07/10/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 2, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                 802.735.7962

City Attorney Eileen Blackwood Further Statement in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law

“Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the McCullen v. Coakley case dealing with a Massachusetts buffer zone law.  That opinion impacts one of two sections of Burlington’s buffer zone ordinance approved by the City Council in 2012.  In response to the Supreme Court decision, the Burlington Police Department has suspended enforcement of Burlington Code of Ordinances Section 21-113(2), which prohibits a person from knowingly congregating, patrolling, picketing or demonstrating within a 35-foot area surrounding the premises of a reproductive health care facility, known as the buffer zone.  Section 21-113(1), which prohibits a person from knowingly obstructing, detaining, hindering, impeding, or blocking a person’s entry to or exit from such a facility, was not addressed by the Supreme Court and will remain in place and continue to be enforced. 

At the July 14, 2014 City Council meeting, I will ask the City Council to amend the ordinance to reflect these changes and to refer the ordinance to the City Council’s Ordinance Committee for consideration of any other amendments that may be reasonable and consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.

To be clear, between now and City Council action on July 14, 2014, no enforcement action will be taken against any individuals for demonstrating, congregating, picketing, or patrolling within the 35-foot buffer zone, as long as they do not obstruct, detain, hinder, impede, or block another person's entry to or exit from a reproductive health care facility.”

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Press Release Date: 
07/02/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 2, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962 

Mayor Miro Weinberger, UVM Humanities Center, Community Members Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1964
Launch of Mayor’s Book Group, to Explore Civic Life, History, and Culture in Burlington

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today joined together with the University of Vermont Humanities Center, community members, and other engaged partners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At a ceremony in front of City Hall, community members gathered to honor this important milestone in American history, and the City Hall bell tower chimed for a minute of remembrance.

“Today we remember the inexcusable injustices of the past and recommit to the unfinished business of ensuring equity in our City and in our nation,” said Mayor Weinberger. “These community conversations are part of the process in which we must all engage to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Act. We thank the brave community leaders and activists who dreamed for this change and worked tirelessly for it to become a new reality.”

Dr. Denise Dunbar, community activist and historian, spoke to the era of social injustice and political unrest that led to this landmark legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, abolished unequal voter registration laws and racial segregation in the school system and in the workplace. Mayor Weinberger also was joined by community leaders and activists, representatives from the Partnership for Change, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington School District, Young Writers Project, area colleges, representatives from the Congressional and Legislative Delegations, and Burlington residents at the event.

“The Civil Rights Act was passed when I was 13 years old, and it had a significant impact on me,” said Dr. Dunbar. “It opened doors for people of all backgrounds and identities, but the work is not over. This dialogue requires courageous conversation that moves beyond colorblindness – to engage in uncomfortable, yet necessary, efforts to build community across difference.”

After the minute of remembrance bell-tolling, the Mayor added: “While we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark achievement, our conversation does not end here. Today we are launching the Mayor’s Book Group, a growing partnership with the UVM Humanities Center to explore civic life, history, and culture in Burlington. I am proud to launch this community conversation on this momentous occasion, and I invite all Burlingtonians to join me in this effort,” said Weinberger.

In commemoration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first selection for the Mayor’s Book Group will be Todd Purdum’s An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Parties, Two Presidents, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in which Purdum, a prominent Washington journalist, recounts the dramatic political battle to pass the Civil Rights Act. To join the book group and obtain a copy of the book, participants are invited to contact Professor David Jenemann, Co-Director of the UVM Humanities Center at david.jenemann@uvm.edu. The Humanities Center will work in coordination with the Fletcher Free Library, where the books will be available for pick-up.

Professor David Jenemann, Co-Director of the Humanities Center, stated, “The collaboration between the City and the UVM Humanities Center strives to cultivate engaged participation in our democracy while also teaching the lessons of history. We are pleased to support the Mayor’s Book Group by purchasing books for the first 200 participants, and we look forward to an ongoing series of exciting conversations about the defining issues of our time.”

The Mayor’s Book Group will promote thoughtful dialogue on issues of continuing importance to our community. The book group seeks to foster a shared City-wide experience through reading and offers members of the Burlington community a forum in which to discuss difficult issues. The first book, Purdum’s An Idea Whose Time Has Come, allows us to celebrate an important accomplishment in American history and civic life, while also examining the ongoing struggle for civil rights in our country. The date and details for a fall discussion will be announced later this summer.  The Mayor’s Book Group will select approximately three books each year.

The City continues to address diversity and inclusion issues on many fronts. On June 23, 2014, Curtiss Reed of Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity presented the Diversity & Equity Strategic Plan to the City Council.  Based on the work of the Burlington Diversity & Equity Ad Hoc Committee and the Vermont Partnership, the plan offers many meaningful recommendations to begin addressing inequities both within City government and across the Burlington community.
 

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Press Release Date: 
07/02/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                 802.735.7962

Mayor Miro Weinberger Appoints Neale Lunderville as Interim General Manager of Burlington Electric Department
Names BED’s Tom Buckley as Acting GM Pending City Council Confirmation of Lunderville

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the appointment of Neale Lunderville as the interim General Manager of the Burlington Electric Department during a news conference at BED.  Most recently, 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.  Lunderville also 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.  Weinberger has asked the City Council to approve the appointment at its July 14, 2014 meeting. 

“Neale has distinguished himself as a proven leader and manager in the public sector at the highest levels of state government leading large, complex organizations and efforts in his past roles serving both Governor Shumlin and Governor Douglas,” said Mayor Weinberger.  “I expect Neale to play a pivotal transitional role in helping prepare BED and the next permanent GM to build on the Department’s record of success.”

Lunderville is a native Vermonter who was born in Burlington.  Lunderville’s contributions to Vermont communities extend beyond his professional work to service on various boards and charitable organizations, including Preservation Trust of Vermont, Champlain College, and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.

“It is an honor to be asked by Mayor Weinberger to lead such a vibrant, forward-thinking organization like Burlington Electric,” said Lunderville.  “It’s exciting to be part of building on BED’s successes to foster healthy communities with energy efficiency and renewable power, while boosting the City’s economy with reliable, competitively priced electricity.”

City Councilor Karen Paul, a member of the BED GM search committee and former Chair of the Electric Commission, joined the Mayor and Lunderville for the announcement and stated:  “As a Burlingtonian who has been long-engaged in the management of BED both as a past commissioner and as a current City Councilor, I am thrilled that the Mayor has tapped a proven leader of Neale’s caliber to guide BED through this important phase in its evolution and to prepare the Department for the arrival of our next permanent GM.”

Weinberger also announced that he had named Tom Buckley, BED’s Manager of Customer and Energy Services, to be the acting GM effective immediately and until the time when the City Council confirms the Mayor’s interim GM appointment of Lunderville.

“I appreciate Tom’s willingness to serve briefly as acting GM,” said Mayor Weinberger.  “I’m confident that his years of experience and deep knowledge of the workings of the Department will ensure smooth operations until our interim GM begins work.”

“I’d like to thank Mayor Weinberger for the trust he has placed in me to manage BED during this brief period of transition,” said Buckley.
 

Please see following and attached documents, including:

  • Memorandum from Mayor Miro Weinberger to City Councilors requesting approval of the appointment of Neale Lunderville as the interim General Manager of the Burlington Electric Department
  • Curriculum vitae of Neale Lunderville

     

MEMORANDUM

To:                         City Councilors
From:                    Mayor Miro Weinberger
Date:                      July 1, 2014
Re:                         Appointment of Interim General Manager at Burlington Electric Department

Overview
I respectfully submit for your consideration and approval Neale Lunderville as interim General Manager (GM) of the Burlington Electric Department (BED) for the next six to nine months, until no later than April 15, 2015.  I am requesting City Council approval of this appointment at your July 14, 2014 meeting. 

Extensive search for permanent GM
Since early this year, searching for the next permanent GM for BED has been a major focus of my Administration.  The thorough search process for BED’s next GM included:

  • Four separate BED team meetings – with line workers, office staff, senior managers, and McNeil staff – where I solicited input regarding the GM position and the future needs of the Department from as many BED employees as possible.
  • Advertising nationally for the position, including targeting diverse communities and supplemental recruitment efforts by my office.
  • Review of resumes and initial interviews of both in-state and out-of-state candidates by a seven-person search committee led by my Chief of Staff Mike Kanarick, and including: 
    • Charlotte Ancel, Energy Attorney, Sheehey Furlong & Behm;
    • Chris Dutton, former CEO of both Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Vermont Electric Power Company;
    • Susan Leonard, Director of Human Resources;
    • Spencer Newman, Electric Commission Chair;
    • Karen Paul, City Councilor and former Electric Commission Chair; and
    • Mark Stephenson, Electric Commission Member and former Electric Commission Chair.
  • My interviews, with Mike Kanarick’s assistance, of all finalist candidates presented to me for consideration by the search committee.

This extensive effort has greatly informed my understanding of Burlington’s energy future and impressed upon me the importance of finding the right person to lead the Department in the uncertain and exciting years ahead.  At this point, however, despite this considerable effort, I do not feel we are ready to end the search for that person. 

Further, in recent weeks, as I have been approaching this conclusion, it became clear that there is an individual who has the skills and background to provide strong leadership to BED, who has excelled at a number of short-term, senior governmental assignments, and is ready to serve our City.  Thus, I have concluded that our best path forward is to temporarily suspend the City’s search for a permanent GM and to seek your approval of Neale Lunderville as interim GM.

In reaching my decision to go the interim route, I consulted with the search committee, Electric Commission members, other individuals intimately familiar with the Department’s workings, City Councilors, and utility experts around Vermont, and I have found broad support and excitement for Neale’s appointment. 

Goals of interim GM appointment
Neale’s primary assignment during the months ahead will be to provide steady leadership to a Department that provides critical services to Burlington every day.  As I detail below, Neale has the right management experience, financial skills, governmental and industry background, and communication skills to effectively perform this essential work.

My intent is not for BED simply to tread water for six to nine months.  Neale also will be tasked with overseeing a strategic review of all elements of BED’s operations and to provide recommendations on future steps the next permanent GM should take to build on BED’s record of success.  In his numerous past high-level assignments, Neale has shown himself to be innovative, tough-minded, and well-suited for this important review.

Track record as a dynamic, effective leader and manager
Neale has distinguished himself as a proven leader and manager in the public sector at the highest levels of state government leading large, complex organizations and efforts in his past roles as Secretary of Administration and Secretary of the Agency of Transportation (VTrans) for Governor Jim Douglas, and as the Tropical Storm Irene Recovery Officer for Governor Peter Shumlin. 

Neale’s effective leadership stems from qualities that the BED GM needs and that will transfer to an organization like BED:

  • Strong finance and management skills – Neale has effectively managed large, complex budgets in difficult fiscal conditions, including both the State of Vermont budget and the VTrans budget.  In addition, Neale has important private sector financial experience, having served as the founder and CEO of NG Advantage – a new energy company that delivers compressed natural gas to industrial users with the dual goals of reduced environmental impact and customer savings – where he signed $70 million in contracts within 18 months of the company’s launch.  Also, Neale has experience managing construction budgets and their associated timelines.
  • Proven ability to partner with key agencies – Effective local governance today requires extensive collaboration with other departments, agencies, and organizations. Neale has worked successfully with many of the groups central to BED’s success, including:  Vermont Department of Public Service, VTrans, various City of Burlington departments, neighboring municipalities, the State Legislature and Executive Branch, our Congressional Delegation, federal government agencies, and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.
  • Strong communication skills – The public and the Electric Commission look to BED to effectively communicate with ratepayers and be responsive to their needs.  Neale is an excellent communicator and advocate, experienced at articulating policy proposals and delivering presentations to a wide array of audiences, as well as sustaining regular and effective communications with a large number of organizational stakeholders.

Energy industry experience
Neale has direct relevant experience in the energy industry that will serve him well at BED:

  • NG Advantage – Neale’s work at NG Advantage gave him a unique perspective on the highly competitive energy marketplace and innovations that are shaping the future of the energy market in the United States. 
  • Green Mountain Power – Neale served in a senior leadership role at GMP, the state’s largest utility.  During his time at GMP, Neale worked with the rollout of smart grid technology, had extensive dealings with the Department of Public Service, and played a prominent role in GMP’s public affairs efforts.

Vermont approach to challenges
Neale has demonstrated success in working with partners with diverse viewpoints to achieve results that were in the best interest of Vermonters.  He has been appointed to senior level positions by both Republican and Democratic administrations and has earned a reputation as someone who focuses on the issues and is able to bring people together to get things done.  Neale’s work to make our Vermont communities stronger extends beyond his professional work to service on various boards and charitable organizations, including Preservation Trust of Vermont, Champlain College, and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. 

Going Forward
Neale, a native Vermonter who was born in Burlington, currently lives in South Burlington.  Further details of Neale’s extensive career can be found in his attached resume.  With your confirmation, Neale will be compensated at an annual salary of $127,400, a level equal to Step 1 on the BED GM pay scale.

We plan to repost the BED GM position later this calendar year and engage in a similar process with our current search committee in an effort to find and appoint our next permanent GM sometime in early calendar year 2015.  Although not an applicant in this current search process, Neale is welcome to apply for the permanent position later this year.

Thank you for your consideration of Neale Lunderville as interim General Manager of the Burlington Electric Department for the next six to nine months.
 

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Press Release Date: 
07/01/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

ADVISORY
June 30, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962     

Mayor Miro Weinberger and the City of Burlington Invite Community to Team USA World Cup Soccer City Hall Park Watch Party

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger, City officials, and Burlington residents and visitors will celebrate Team USA’s next match in the World Cup with a City Hall Park watch party.  Generously sponsored by Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry and also made possible with an 8 by 15 foot LED screen supplied by Dark Star Lighting & Production, this event has been organized by the Mayor’s Office, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Burlington Telecom.  All are welcome to attend this public event to cheer on Team USA in its match against Belgium in the Round of 16.
 

WHAT:                Team USA World Cup Soccer City Hall Park Watch Party

WHEN:                Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm

WHERE:               City Hall Park

SPONSORS:        Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry
                             Dark Star Lighting & Production                

RAIN:                   If your “no rain” dances do not work, the watch party will take place inside City Hall’s Contois Auditorium.

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Press Release Date: 
06/30/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962
                 
City Attorney Eileen Blackwood Statement in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law

“The Burlington buffer zone ordinance has both similarities with and differences from the Massachusetts law.  We are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Massachusetts case to determine the impact on our ordinance and will share the results of our analysis in the next few days.”

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Press Release Date: 
06/26/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 25, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                 802.735.7962
                
Mayor Miro Weinberger, City and Community Officials, Old North Enders Celebrate Grand Re-Opening of Reinvented Roosevelt Park 
Penny for Parks Program Exceeds Goal with 61 Projects Complete in Two Years

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today joined together with City and community leaders and residents of the Old North End to celebrate the grand re-opening of the recently-completed and reinvented Roosevelt Park.  The ambitious and successful effort to rebuild much of Roosevelt Park is one of 61 Penny for Parks projects that have been completed as part of the Mayor’s plan to make significant progress on important community parks projects.  To date, the City has exceeded its goal, having completed 61 projects in two years.

“This project is a great example of the tremendous good that can come from public – private partnerships,” said Mayor Weinberger.  “Roosevelt Park is so important to the fabric of the Old North End, serving as a meeting ground for this neighborhood’s diverse community.  I look forward to a renewed and enhanced relationship between this great park and this vibrant neighborhood.  Today’s event also represents the culmination of two years of focus and hard work by our Parks and Recreation staff to make good on the parks improvements Burlingtonians demanded in 2008 when they voted by a nearly 2 to 1 margin to create Penny for Parks.”

The overhaul of Roosevelt Park, led and managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, included a remodeling and transformation of the underutilized pavilion into a teen academic center, a complete overhaul of two tennis courts, and two basketball courts.  Future plans for Roosevelt Park include a full mural wrap of and new landscaping around the teen academic center, as well as paved paths for accessibility throughout the park. 

The new teen center will be programmed and managed by the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington.  The partnership originated last winter when Mary Alice McKenzie, Boys & Girls Club Executive Director, pitched the idea to Jesse Bridges, Parks and Recreation Director, and resulted in a memorandum of understanding to solidify the arrangement. 

“The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington is grateful to Mayor Weinberger and Director Bridges for pulling this project together and doing the right thing for the children,” stated McKenzie.  “We are forever thankful to Bobby Miller, Billy Bissonette, Comcast, and our other generous donors.” 

The remodeling of the former pavilion and storage building was accomplished with a $100,000 donation of materials and construction service from Miller’s company, R.E.M. Development Company, and through additional construction labor donated by Bissonette’s property maintenance company, Bissonette Properties.  Penny for Parks funds, with additional support from an anonymous private donor, covered the cost of the courts overhauls.  The tennis courts will play host for the King Street Center’s award-winning and much-loved Kids On the Ball youth tennis program, run by former tennis pro Jake Agna.

“I am really excited about this project,” Bridges said.  “The presence of the Boys & Girls Club in Roosevelt Park will bring new life and energy to the park and will deepen the positive connections between people and parks, between children who grow up in the Old North End and the park that lies at the heart of their neighborhood.”

Penny for Parks is an annual funding plan for parks capital improvement projects.  Established in 2008, it was approved by 64 percent of the voters as a parks improvement fund and is supported by a dedicated tax.  Penny for Parks is a short- and long-range financial planning and project implementation tool developed to address community needs for the ongoing improvement of parks facilities.  Through Penny for Parks, the Parks and Recreation Department is able to schedule the implementation of improvements over time and better able to identify phased funding strategies.

At the direction of Mayor Weinberger, a full community outreach and ranking process was established in the spring of 2012 to get the stalled program moving again, resulting in an aggressive plan to move projects forward.  Since that time, 61 projects have been completed with an investment of $1.3 million of Penny for Parks funds during fiscal years 2013 and 2014.  Further, more than $800,000 from additional funding sources has been leveraged with Penny for Parks funds during that time.

“When the Parks Commission developed Penny for Parks, our goal was to create a funding source to ensure that we got the most out of our parks – to prevent deterioration and to have funds to provide parks for our kids and for all members of the community,” said Dave Hartnett, Ward 4 City Councilor and Treasurer of the 2008 campaign to pass the Penny for Parks ballot initiative.  “We worked hard to get Penny for Parks passed to achieve results like we’re seeing today – meaningful parks improvements like those at Calahan, Leddy, Roosevelt – with more to come.  Mayor Weinberger immediately prioritized Penny for Parks, and now his team has put us on a clear and successful Penny for Parks path.”

For fiscal year 2015, more than 30 parks improvement projects budgeted at over $1.1 million and funded by a combination of Penny for Parks funds, Parks Impact Fees, and the Capital Improvement Program are planned.  Planning also is underway for additional projects funded by tax increment financing, federal and state grants, and private donations.  These projects include the Bike Path Rehabilitation, improvements to Waterfront Park, and Perkins Pier harbor protection.  Residents may submit project ideas to the Parks and Recreation Department through December 31, 2014 for consideration in the fiscal year 2016 project list.  The project request form, along with more information about the Penny for Parks program, may be found by visiting www.enjoyburlington.com/Projects/PennyforParks.cfm.

*Penny for Parks Completed Projects List for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 attached.

 

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Press Release Date: 
06/25/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 16, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
               802.735.7962
                 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget Memorandum to City Council
TO:                      City Council
FROM:                  Miro Weinberger, Mayor
DATE:                   June 13, 2014
RE:                       Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget
 
 
Herein is the Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (click here for budget).  I want to thank Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten, the members of his office, and all our Department Heads and the members of their teams who contributed to the creation of this document, which represents progress on many fronts and is the product of an orderly and careful process.  I also want to thank City Councilors for your help in the creation of this budget and engagement in four productive work sessions in May. 
 
The City of Burlington is a complex financial entity involving numerous enterprise funds, many revenue streams, and nearly $180 million (excluding the School District) in total expenditures.  While this complexity defies a simple summary, I would like to highlight key elements of the FY15 Budget.
 
Administration Strives for an FY15 Budget that is Fair, Factual, and Forward
CAO Rusten articulated the goals of a Fair, Factual, and Forward FY15 Budget early in the process, well before the Town Meeting Day vote.  These goals are reflected in numerous ways:
 
Fair:  While the City’s General Fund Budget gets the most attention because of its relationship to property taxes, the Administration and the City Council are responsible for numerous budgets and – while there is considerable overlap – there are different constituencies and users impacted by these different budgets and related taxes and fees.  Property tax payers are not, for example, in an identical universe as electric rate payers.  The Administration and the Council have a responsibility to treat all the different stakeholders accurately and fairly in their cost and revenue allocations between the General Fund and other budgets.  There has been a conscious effort this year to scrutinize these allocations and reset them where necessary, a practice that should help the City avoid future problems.
 
Factual:  The Administration has attempted to be highly factual in its creation of the budget.  In the General Fund alone, we have published a budget with over 3,500 line items, each showing the FY15 budget compared to prior year totals and current year actual spending.  As a result of these comparisons, in a number of areas – for example Parks and Recreation and Burlington City Arts revenue lines that had been repeatedly over-budgeted in the past – we have made substantial adjustments to prior year budgets.  Going forward, with the new accounting system fully implemented and with the entire City budget and all spending information available online and updated daily, we expect the budget accuracy to continue to improve.
 
Forward:  The FY15 Budget – the first created under the direction of CAO Rusten – also is intended to be a bridge to future budgets.  For example: we have changed policy and begun funding a future reappraisal Reserve Fund; we are laying the groundwork to purchase vehicles with cash instead of with loans that have frequently left the City paying off debt for vehicles even after they were no longer in use; and we have included funds for a central purchaser and for the creation of a much needed Information Technology (IT) Department that should enable the City to improve performance and free up the CAO’s Office to focus on major cost drivers.  I very much appreciate that the voters were willing to fund this approach, and we will be working hard over the next year to make good on this opportunity.
 
The FY15 General Fund Budget maintains restraint and prudence
The proposed FY15 General Fund Budget limits overall growth in expenditures to 2.6 percent (after accounting for changes in the way billing for expenses within General Fund Departments is now being accounted for).  This figure will be achieved in part by limiting Cost of Living Adjustments for municipal employees to one percent (unless savings in our health care benefits or pension funds can be achieved that allow the City to consider a greater increase), and it includes a $500,000 contingency for unanticipated expenses, a budget-line introduced in the FY14 Budget that has proven important.
 
The FY15 Budget reflects much-needed focus on capital project administration
This Administration is very focused on moving forward capital and infrastructure projects ranging from major transportation projects like the Champlain Parkway to ongoing routine re-investment in our buildings.  Over the past two years, we have made substantial progress rebuilding the Bike Path after the 2011 floods, eliminating a large backlog of Penny for Parks projects, and in recent months making substantial progress investing in our buildings through the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) by putting more focus on project management and implementation capacity.  The FY15 Budget takes another step in this direction by bringing in-house electrical work that previously was outsourced at a higher cost.
 
In addition, the FY15 Budget addresses a related operational area where we have struggled – capital project accounting.  The Budget adds to the CAO’s Office an accountant focused on project accounting (including billing/reimbursement, which in the past sometimes lagged far behind).  This position will be particularly important in the years ahead as the City enters construction on Waterfront Access North and ramps up other waterfront tax increment financing (TIF) projects.
 
The FY15 Budget reflects substantial improvement in most enterprise funds and the City’s intent to address remaining challenges within CEDO and Traffic
The City’s efforts to improve the financial position of its enterprise funds are producing results.
 
Wastewater and stormwater:  A three-year effort – begun in the prior Administration – to turn around the troubled Wastewater Fund was successfully completed over the past year.  In June, 2011, the Wastewater Fund showed a $2.5 million deficit that contributed significantly to the Auditor’s and Moody’s Investors Service’s concerns about the City’s liquidity position.  Further, through December, 2013, the Wastewater Fund faced a considerable challenge as the refinancing of $14 million of debt was needed.  As a result of multiple rate increases since 2011 and the City’s first refinancing with the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank – a relationship estimated to save rate payers over $5 million in interest due to a lower interest rate – the debt was refinanced successfully, and the General Fund deficit now has been repaid fully. 
 
FY15 will be the first year since the utility was created in 2009 in which the stormwater utility will be functioning at full capacity as a result of a fee increase that was phased in over the course of FY14.
 
Water:  A similar effort to eliminate deficits in the Water Fund also was successfully completed in the last year.  The audited deficit peaked in June, 2012, when the Water Fund owed the General Fund over $2.2 million and was called out by the Auditor and Moody’s as a driver in the City’s vulnerable liquidity position.  As a result of a rate increase, this deficit has been eliminated, and the fund now is poised to make over $900,000 of needed infrastructure investment in FY15.
 
Airport:  After some of the most difficult years in the institution’s long history, the airport will finish its third strong year of financial performance this month with a projected debt coverage ratio of 1.75, well above both the target of 1.4 (identified to restore market confidence in the airport’s finances) and the 1.25 required by our debt covenants (which the airport failed to hit prior to FY12).  In FY14, Moody’s stabilized the airport’s ratings outlook for the first time since 2010.  The FY15 Budget reflects the fact that the airport faces another challenging year of maintaining this performance.  The airport’s longstanding dispute with South Burlington regarding proper taxation of the airport is anticipated to go to court this fall and could result in significant budgetary relief.
 
Burlington Electric Department:  BED’s Moody’s rating also was stabilized in FY14 after years of negative outlook.  After prevailing in arbitration regarding the Winooski One Hydroelectric Plant and retiring the debt related to construction of the McNeil Generating Station, BED is poised to make financial progress in the FY15 Budget.  In FY15, while continuing its modernization efforts and the build-out of solar installations on several City properties, BED will improve its cash on hand and debt service coverage, two areas that Moody’s has been critical of in the past. 
 
The FY15 Budget also reflects our attempts to address challenges in two major funds:
 
Traffic:  As has been projected for over a year, policy changes will be needed in FY15 to keep the fund solvent and to make necessary investment in the City’s three parking garages.  In preparation, the Administration has been pursuing a unique collaboration among the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO), the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Burlington Business Association (BBA).  We currently are awaiting the results of an engineering investigation into the garages that is expected to show a need for substantial reinvestment, and consultant recommendations regarding a range of possible revenue enhancements and operational changes focused on making the Traffic Fund solvent and improving the parking experience in Burlington.  Early in FY15, the Administration expects to approach the Public Works Commission regarding fee changes and to return to the Council for a budget adjustment once the studies are complete.
 
CEDO
As was discussed with the Council in a lengthy work session, CEDO’s FY15 Budget attempts to display clearly and address fully the Department’s chronic funding challenges through a combination of cuts and steps towards a new, stable funding stream for CEDO’s economic development activities.  (The Department’s community development efforts are grant funded and remain largely unchanged.)  The City has enjoyed strong growth in the Gross Receipts revenues in significant part because of new downtown developments that CEDO has helped facilitate.  Continued growth of these revenues could contribute to a long-term stable funding strategy for CEDO.
 
The FY15 Budget reflects the City’s expanded commitment to the Livable Wage and to enforcement of the ordinance
The results of the lengthy discussion over the last year about the Livable Wage can be seen in two budget lines.  The Parks and Recreation Budget for seasonal employees was increased by over $60,000 in anticipation of the additional wages that now will be due to seasonal employees who have worked for the City for more than four years.
 
The City’s Budget also was increased to include $40,000 for professional consulting that is expected to be spent largely on an independent livable wage monitor – a concept created by the ordinance revisions of the last year. 
 
The FY15 Budget dedicates new funds to the City’s increasing commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts
The Budget includes $115,000 for three new diversity and inclusion initiatives.
 
New Training Position:  $60,000 for the creation of a new training position in the Human Resources Department that will allow the City to pursue enhanced employee training in diversity, accessibility, and other areas.
 
Strategic Plan:  $50,000 for implementation of the City’s new Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan (an increase of $15,000 over FY14).
 
Intern Stipends:  $5,000 for intern stipends to allow high school and college students from diverse backgrounds to participate in the third year of the City Hall internship program.
 
In addition, the Parks and Recreation Budget includes $18,500 of increased scholarship funding for Burlington youth who need financial assistance to participate in Parks and Recreation programs.
 
The FY15 Budget will enable the City to improve operations through better Information Technology (IT) capacity, as well as through improved data collection and analysis
For many years, the largest operational need reported by our Department Heads has been better IT equipment and staffing, and the public also long has desired improved municipal IT performance.  For the first time, the FY15 Budget includes funds for the creation of a new IT Department Head, as well as an additional new position.  We also likely will be bringing to the Council some re-organization of our additional IT positions to create a more effective Department.  Not only will these changes allow us to address long-standing needs, but also a new IT Department should position the City to build on the open data efforts we have made over the last year and lead to more data-based analysis and decision-making, and thus more effective, impactful performance.
 
Conclusion: the FY15 Budget represents another important step towards restored municipal financial health and improved operations, however, serious challenges remain ahead
In sum, I believe the Budget now before the Council is very much in line with the significant progress we have made together over the last two years.  I again thank you for your help with the development of the FY15 Budget and respectfully request your strong support for the Budget on June 16, 2014.
 
I want to be clear that our work on financial challenges will not end with the passage of this Budget.  As I stressed in my State of the City Address in April, the work ahead includes finishing the critical task of completing the resolution of the Burlington Telecom situation, confronting directly the rising costs in our pension system and K-12 education system that are driving property tax growth, creating and implementing a long-term stewardship plan for our municipal assets, and increasing municipal revenues through sustained financial growth.  While work is underway in each of these areas, further action from the Council beyond the Budget will be required to address these challenges.
 
Thank you.
 
# # #
Press Release Date: 
06/16/2014
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

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