Burlington City Council working to finalize March 2020 ballot

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington residents will likely get a chance to vote on a proposal to add a housing trust fund tax.

A question regarding whether to implement the tax is expected to appear on the March 2020 ballot. The City Council voted 10-2 last year to approve the tax. Brian Pine, P-Burlington City Council, sponsored the resolution.

According to the resolution, the Housing Trust Fund has been the city’s largest source of municipal funding for affordable housing, contributing $5.9 million to support the creation of 1,689 affordable homes.

Pine says the tax would be $0.01 per $100 and would help fund affordable housing.

“It is allocated at least once a year, sometimes twice a year, to organizations that create and preserve affordable housing,” said Pine.

According to Pine’s calculation, the average homeowner in Burlington would end up contributing about $25 a year to the Housing Trust Fund. That’s based on the average home value of $250,000.

Residents we spoke to on Monday say that’s not a bad bargain.

“I think it would be a very sustainable, very easy way for someone to participate, as a citizen, in this community and support the better cause without taking that much time out of their day to do it,” said Trang Do.

Finian Gramling said he supports it.

“Definitely. It doesn’t seem like that big of an increase and if it helps affordable housing, why not?” he said.

Pine says this tax would restore a penny tax that voters approved in 1989. He says that amount was not required to remain a penny and it didn’t keep up with inflation. Therefore, the value dropped to half a penny. Pine says this revived tax would make sure the full penny increases over time with inflationary growth of property values in Burlington.

Pine was one of 10 councilors in support of the proposal. Two of them voted it down.

“They just feel that the property taxes are too high in Burlington,” Pine told WCAX. “They do not want to support anything which would increase property taxes.”

Pine hopes there will be more people in favor of the tax come March.

“I believe Burlingtonians will rally for this cause because I think when push comes to shove, people care deeply about their neighbors being able to afford safe, decent, affordable homes,” he said.

The Burlington City Council is seeking input from the community on this matter and other proposed amendments to the city’s charter as they finalize the March 2020 ballot. Public hearings will be held on Tuesday and Monday, Jan. 27.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the items of discussion include the housing trust fund tax, a proposal to let legal non-U.S. citizens vote in local elections, and a resolution regarding how soon before a local election the ballots will be made available.

Pine says it’s likely all three items will make it on the ballot, but it is procedure that they hold public hearings to hear from the community one last time before making the ballot official.