MONTPELIER — A group of concerned citizens are scheduled to meet tonight at 6 p.m. at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Noble Hall to discuss how to cut Montpelier's municipal budget next year and to lower property taxes.
I wrote about this group on Nov. 24 here. It now has a name, "Vibrant and Affordable Montpelier."
Here's the group's press release.
This is our group's first large meeting, open to all residents, business owners and/or property owners who have signed, or are thinking of signing, or who support the Municipal Budget Concerns letter to our city leaders, now in circulation for signatures. We understand that the Mayor, the City Manager, and at least two city councilors will be attending (as interested audience members, not as listed speakers) so we'd very much like a strong showing of our group, to show support for our position. Here's the agenda:
Vibrant and Affordable Montpelier (VAM)
Monday, Dec. 5, 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Noble Hall, Vermont College (east side of green)
- History and Purpose of VAM -- 10 minutes
- Are our municipal taxes too high? -- 10 minutes
- Our Municipal Budget Concerns letter, the city's response, our desire for more signers -- 5 min.
- Schedule of upcoming budget meetings, thinking about next year -- 5 min.
- Brief look at Local Option Tax -- 10 minutes
- Small group discussions -- 20 minutes
- Reconvene, reports from facilitators - 10 minutes
- Group discussion or questions -- 5 to 10 minutes
- Wrap-up -- 5 minutes
A copy of the letter is reproduced below, along with the 151 signatures received as of noon, Sunday, December 4th. Please continue to circulate the letter as we'd like to continue gathering signatures.
Thanks, and please be sure to attend tomorrow evening if at all possible.
Thierry Guerlain, 15 McKinley Street, 229-5686, firstname.lastname@example.org
...for VAM, Vibrant and Affordable Montpelier
November 16, 2011
Dear Mayor Hooper and City Councilors:
We write as Montpelier citizens, business people and property owners who are increasingly concerned about the impact of our city’s municipal budget on the affordability of our community and its economic vitality. Simply put, we believe the current trajectory of city spending and taxes is not sustainable. It discourages young families from settling here while forcing elderly residents out. It is critical that we reverse the spending curve.
Our 2010 effective municipal tax rate is the 6th highest among Vermont’s cities and towns. (This does not include school spending; the effective school tax portion of our total property tax, by contrast, ranked 67th state-wide.) Compared to similar-sized cities, our average municipal tax bills and municipal spending per capita are among the highest in Vermont. Our water/sewer bills keep increasing as well.
The recession has forced many Montpelier households and businesses to reduce spending as incomes have declined. Vermont’s state government has reduced spending as tax revenues have fallen. We believe Montpelier should be doing the same rather than inevitably increasing city budgets every year.
While municipal taxes are high, core city functions have been neglected: e.g: maintenance of roads, bridges, sidewalks and physical infrastructure. We understand that you recognize this issue and anticipate increased infrastructure spending, which we applaud. But we don’t believe Montpelier taxpayers can afford a tax increase yet again next year, so we ask you to consider alternative ways of paying for these additional expenses, including bonding, and reductions in other parts of the budget.
We believe that top-down budget guidelines need to be established by you, the city leadership, early in the annual budgeting process. Department heads can then develop departmental budgets within specific spending limits. This may require avoidance of new spending; reduction of some services; reduced energy use, staffing levels and overtime; and implementation of innovative ways to reduce budget pressures.
Specifically, we ask that you take a new approach to the FY13 budget. We ask that you request your department heads to prepare budgets that – not counting increased bonding and spending for roads and infrastructure – reduce our municipal budget 3% below FY12 levels. Let us then seriously consider how we can operate within that reduced budget. Difficult choices will be required; please be assured we are willing to help in this process.
Montpelier is a wonderful community. We’d like to see Montpelier have a vibrant economy attractive to new and existing businesses and affordable for families young and old alike. Thank you for anything you can do to ensure such a future by keeping a check on municipal property taxes.
Lynne Cleveland Vitzthum
Patricia I. Eaton
Alison Goodwin Nielsen
Dorothy L. Helling
John M. Peterson
Robert E. Roberts
Jane Sakovitz Dale
Carol H. Schlank
Irene Aja Stewart
Robert B. Stewart
Priscilla H. Triebs
John Van Deren
Lu Van Zeeland
Robert A. Withey