At the Burlington Board of Finance meeting Monday night, the Bike Path Task Force presented three options to fund fixes path fixes. However, finance committee members said they'll need more time before recommending the full council take action.
Earlier in the day, Jim Hammond and his wife enjoyed one of their near-daily rides along the Burlington bike path. The couple from Mallett's Bay said each trip feels like a mini-vacation.
"It's just a pleasant place to come down and relax," said Jim Hammond, "we'll go down to the end and sit and watch the boats and then we'll go back."
They're not alone, the path draws thousands from near and far on a daily basis, generating millions for the local economy. Hammond said he has no problem navigating the route, but concedes, "it's not as good as it has been, it needs some work."
FEMA funds cover repairs from last year's spring flooding but officials say problems that predate the storms need to be addressed to keep the economic driver's wheels in motion. The changes include re-surfacing the path and improving signage among many others.
Monday evening, Bike Path Task Force Chairman John Bossange presented plans to fund current and future repairs. Each option raises $2.5 million through private donors and a public finance tool known as a Tax Increment Finance - or TIF - district. The proposals differ on how to raise an additional nine million dollars though.
Under, the Task Force's preferred alternative, the city would borrow $5.5 dollars in general obligation bonds. The city would bring in the remaining $3.6 million by raising the rooms and meals tax by one cent for three years.
Options 'B' and 'C' would decrease the city's borrowing responsibility by extending the temporary tax-hike. Doing so for an additional two years as proposed in option 'C' would shrink bond obligations by $2.4 million.
Bossange says business leaders have agreed to option 'A' but cringed when asked to extend their obligation beyond three years.
Voters could also scuttle the plans if they shoot down a permanent half-cent increase on property taxes. The potential rate hike is meant to fund future repairs and is expected to land on the ballot this November.
Mayor Miro Weinberger suggested the finance committee delay action Monday to thoroughly inspect the proposals and determine how the bike path fits within the city's larger fiscal challenges. The full council is expected to act by September which could mean changes will be completed a year later.
At least some of the benefits of a better bikeway won't cost Burlington residents a cent. Colchester is currently making repairs to its portion of the trail which connects the Queen City to the Lake Champlain Islands.
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