Voters in Vermont’s largest city will decide on Tuesday whether to support a $9 million fiscal stability bond.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger proposed the ballot item to essentially refinance the city’s debt, but the new mayor is seeing some new opposition from a conservative super PAC.
Early-morning coffee meetings; a steady diet of Twitter messages; news conferences held on Burlington’s waterfront and along its bike path – all are intended to achieve the same goal: convince two-thirds of the public that a fiscal stability bond will solve Burlington’s financial woes.
"It is a little different – campaigning while also running the city. It’s kind of two jobs," Weinberger says, meeting with his staff at a coffee shop downtown. Weinberger says the bond will put Burlington’s finances in order.
"Ever since the $17 million was spent on Burlington Telecom, we have had a problem. That problem is that we have been overly reliant on short-term debt," Weinberger says.
Burlington’s credit rating has taken some big hits. Last summer, Moody’s Investors Service placed the city’s general obligation debt at slightly above junk bond status. And Weinberger is concerned that another downgrade could put the city’s finances at risk.
"It’s costing us dearly already," he says. "It’s on the verge of costing us a lot more because if we are downgraded again we become a city that is no longer an investment grade city. We become a city with junk bond status"
The mayor’s message doesn’t ring true with the conservative super PAC Vermonters First, which – in a series of TV ads – has led the charge against several Democrats and their party’s initiatives. "Democrats in control are out of control," says the narrator in the group’s latest spot. "Vote for balance this November."
Vermonters First sent out a mailer over the weekend urging voters in Burlington to vote against the ballot item. The mailer says that the proposed bond would double the city’s borrowing cost and increase its property tax rate.
"This bond, to me, is nothing more than a tax increase," says Burlington City Councilor Paul Decelles, the only member of the Council who opposes the proposed bond. "A no vote by the citizens of Burlington will not cause the city’s credit rating to go to junk bond status overnight."
Decelles and other opponents have been working with the super PAC Vermonters First to spread their message, and they’re confident the ballot item, which requires a two-thirds majority, won’t pass.
Public Post: Read city council minutes from Burlington
Meanwhile, there are a number of other local ballot items across the state.
- Waterbury Village will vote on whether to abolish its local police department.
- The Essex police department wants to build a new headquarters with more space for employees.
- Castleton will also decide a question about renovating the historic building where town offices used to be located.
- Residents in Shelburne will vote on whether to explore a zoning code designed to fight unchecked commercial development and suburban sprawl.