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Taxpayer Revolt

Burlington, Vermont - June 12, 2006

People packed Burlington's City Hall Monday night, many of them eager for their three minutes at the microphone to tell the city council how the budget is affecting them.

"Our taxes keep going up and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. Frankly, it has us re-examining how committed we are to staying. At what point does Burlington become too expensive to be worth it?" asked Burlington taxpayer Benjamin Weber.

"We have a sick culture in this city and we are tired of funding your people's playground. Stop it. Get fiscally responsible," said another resident, Tom Licata.

"It's amazing to me we have all this untaxed land on the waterfront and we want to put nonprofits down there, things that don't produce revenues. What would one hotel do to plug the hole in your budget?" asked taxpayer George Ewins.

City administrators said the proposed $45 million budget has already cut the fat.

"It's a very tight budget, and I just want to stress some of those areas, because if we tighten this budget too far, there's a good change we'll break it," said Mayor Bob Kiss, P-Burlington.

Kiss said the city is promoting safety practices to reduce the need for workers' compensation and promoting prevention to cut down on health care costs. But city councilors said one problem is looming larger than all the others. The city can no longer afford the rising costs of the retirement fund for city employees.

"This is not a knock on city employees, this is not a knock on the unions. The negotiations several years ago were done in good faith, but we have arrived at a point where it is simply not an affordable system for Burlington taxpayers as we go forward," said Kurt Wright, R-Burlington City Council.

"Simply put, in my opinion, the retirement system is broken, it is not working anymore. It's not affordable for the taxpayers and I don't think it's going to be sustainable for our employees in the long haul," said Andy Montroll, D-Burlington City Council.

A couple of ideas were suggested to reach a balance in the city's budget.

The city council proposed a resolution to reassess the city's contribution to the retirement fund. And one resident proposed the creation of a 12-member citizen taxpayer advisory board. That goal-- seek a balance between city services and affordable taxes.

Kate Duffy - Channel 3 News

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