Town Meeting Day is March 4 and I want to encourage all residents to vote in our local elections and the presidential primary. You can vote anytime when the City Clerks Office is open as an early or absentee voter. And, the Clerk/Treasurers Office is open Saturday March 1 from 9 am to noon and on Monday March 3 until 7:30 pm for early voting. Early or absent voters can also vote by mail. Make your request for a ballot now as the election is approaching fast call the Clerk-Treasurers Office at 865-7000. There are several important questions on the March ballot and I want to let residents know my position on all six questions. Question 1: In Support of the Moran Redevelopment Proposal
Ive talked often about my support for the Citys proposal to redevelop the decommissioned Moran power plant on the Waterfront. This proposal envisions a renewed and revitalized Moran plant with a public ice-skating rink, summer spray park, enhancements to the bike path and building site, parking improvements, a new and expanded skateboard park, restaurant and caf_Ice Factor Internationals rock and ice-climbing wall, the Green Mountain Childrens Museum and an enhanced Community Sailing Center. Redevelopment at the Moran Plant will retain and improve a vital City asset, provide 4-season enjoyment and recreation to children and families, adults of all ages, and youth, while at the same time significantly enhancing the local and state economy. A yes vote allows this important plan to move forward. It does not end the opportunity for public input and review, since any lease and development agreement will need approval by the Citys Board of Finance and City Council. Funding for the Moran plan leverages significant investment from the non-profit and for-profit partners. Any funding proposal to increase individual residents property taxes would need to go back to the voters. More information about the Moran proposal is available at www.ci.burlington.vt.us . The proposal has a broad base of support -- 13 of 14 City Councilors are in favor of the concept. I hope residents appreciate the value of redeveloping Moran and vote yes on Question 1. Question 2: Knocking Down the Moran Plant
Question 2 asks residents if they want the Moran Plant to be demolished to make way for a park. Destruction of the Moran Plant would be a significant mistake. Moran is a valuable City asset that we can build upon and which will support the Citys Waterfront revitalization efforts, similar to the successful reuse of obsolete power plants in other cities across the U.S. In addition, the cost of demolishing Moran has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million dollars and, that does not include the additional costs of building a park. It is likely this cost would need to be borne by City taxpayers, since it would be very difficult to find private investment or other sources of public funding to tear a building down. No matter how one feels about the Citys redevelopment plan for Moran, I urge residents to vote no on Question 2. Question 3: Approval of the School Budget
The FY09 school budget proposes an increase of about 9.9 %. Much of this increase in cost is covered by new revenues. However, some of the increase will impact property tax rates by an increase of 8.7 cents per $100 of home value. The bulk of this increase (approximately 5.9 cents per $100 of home value) is attributable to a common level of appraisal adjustment from the State of Vermont in order to equalize tax rates between towns. The remainder of the increase to property taxes (approximately 2.8 cents per $100 of home value) results from increases in personnel, energy, federal mandates and building and grounds maintenance costs, as well as new educational programming for children. Burlington has the lowest equalized homestead tax rate in Chittenden County and the lowest spending per equalized pupil in Chittenden County. I hope that voters appreciate the value of educational services children in our community receive, and vote yes on Question 3 to approve the school budget. Question 4: Increasing the Veterans Property Tax Exemption
This question would approve an increase in the Veterans Exemption for qualified disabled veterans in Burlington from $20,000 of appraisal value to $40,000 of appraisal value. The Clerk-Treasurers office estimates that this would result in an additional deferral of about $35,000 per year of property tax payments that would not be collected by the City but would instead remain with disabled veterans in our community. State law recently allowed an increase in the Veterans Exemption if approved by a city or town. I support this proposal and encourage voters to vote yes on Question 4. Question 5: Installation of Nitrogen Oxides Reduction System at the McNeil Generating Station
This proposal will authorize the installation of a nitrogen oxides reduction system at the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fifty percent and qualify the plants output for the sale of renewable energy credits. Installation of this system would be funded by the BED Bond sale which is the subject of Question 6. I believe the Bond sale is a tremendous opportunity to improve our electric power system, support renewable energy sources, and reduce emissions at no cost to residents and no increase in electric rates. I am in favor of a yes vote on Question 5. Question 6: Approval Of Revenue Bonds For the Burlington Electric Department
Voters will have the opportunity on Town Meeting Day to approve a $39,600,000 bond sale for a series of important and very beneficial Burlington Electric Department projects. The bond sale will finance capital improvements to the electric plant, including capital improvements to reduce emissions at the McNeil Generating Station, investment in VELCO projects (through Vermont Transco, LLC), capital upgrades and improvements to BEDs distribution and sub-transmission system and substations, the underground placement of electric lines in or around the Citys waterfront, and investment in renewable energy projects. This project will improve the reliability of our electric system, help stabilize electric rates for residents, enhance Burlingtons Waterfront, reduce emissions that harm our environment, and increase the Citys use of green power sources. The bond obligation will be paid from electric system revenue, and the projects funded will reduce BED costs and provide a substantial return on investment to ratepayers. It will not impact electric rates or the property tax rate - an extremely positive outcome for the City. I support a yes vote Question 6. Again, I hope all residents exercise their right to vote on Town Meeting Day. And, Ill see you at the polls.