Council approves Burlington budget
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington city councilors voted on Monday night to approve Mayor Miro Weinberger’s $96 million budget. Increased police funding was up for debate, but this time without controversy.
City councilors unanimously approved the city’s $96 million budget. In addition to the budget and short-term rental ordinance, councilors and Mayor Weinberger questioned school commissioners about plans for the new Burlington High School and Burlington Technical Center.
Burlington city councilors suggested school commissioners might have to be flexible on their August 2025 goal. The city says they can’t bond the $35 million shortfall, but they’ll work with them to find the funds, whether it’s from taxpayers or the state.
Commissioners wanted the plan before the voters in November, but councilors suggest waiting until March.
Monday night, Burlington city councilors also approved the city’s 2023 budget. The most discussed item was the police budget, which is getting a $1 million investment to go toward officer retention and recruitment.
“This is a budget that makes substantial new investments in public safety, in the climate emergency in addressing it and infrastructure and more,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.
Weinberger says the goal is to get 85 officers by July 2025.
He says Interim Chief Jon Murad set that goal and also wants to increase the Police Academy class size by 50%, double the number of lateral hires and improve the retention rates of current officers.
They plan to make that a reality through a “competitive contract; signing bonuses; and incentives such as housing stipends to live in Burlington, education, and child care.”
Weinberger says the budget also increases the number of community service officers and liaisons.
In the meeting, councilors discussed an amended short-term rental ordinance. The topic has been coming up for months, garnering mixed feelings.
“I was through a short-term rental able to add a unit, so I doubled the number of units on that plot, and I continue to scratch and scrabble to make ends meet,” said Erik Kronk of Burlington.
Monday’s version focuses on owner-occupied housing that is allowed to have another unit on the property be a short-term rental. It also provides some protection for off-site short-term rentals needing to have affordable housing on the property, as well.
“The city does have a compelling interest to limit the number of long-term units converted to short-term, but I think it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t ruin livelihoods,” said Chris Haessly of Burlington.
The amended version of the short-term rental ordinance passed by an 8-2 vote.
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