VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL – BUDGET WORK SESSION
JUNE 25, 2019
Mayor Jeff Fritz called the recessed meeting from June 18th to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the Opera House. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Jeffrey Fritz City Manager Matt Chabot
Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly City Clerk Joan Devine
Alderman David Austin Reporter Andy Kirkaldy
Alderman David Small 39 Signed in Visitors
Alderman Mark Koenig
Alderman William Benton
Alderman Lowell Bertrand
WARRANTS: Two Warrants were presented; one for this fiscal year and one for next. This year’s Warrant was $74,625.49 and next year’s Warrant was $55,343.21. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.
MINUTES: Approval of minutes to the meetings held June 11th and June 18th were deferred.
PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS: Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly moved to re-appoint Mike Winslow, Tim Cook and Danelle Birong to the Planning Commission for 2-year terms. The motion was seconded by Alderman Austin with all voting in favor.
Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to re-appoint Shannon Haggett and Cheryl Brinkman, for 1-year terms, to Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s (ACRPC) Board of Directors. The motion was seconded by Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.
Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to re-appoint Brent Rakowski as the delegate and Shannon Haggett as the alternate delegate to ACRPC’s Transportation Advisory Committee for a 1-year term. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
VERGENNES REVOLVING LOAN FUND – COLLATERAL CHANGE: City Manager Chabot advised the City Council authorized a $25,000 loan to Barnumtown Distributions, LLC in April. The collateral that was offered is leased equipment so collateral securing the loan has changed and is recorded as part of their mortgage to the City. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to accept the change in collateral, seconded by Alderman David Small, with all voting in favor except Alderman Benton who abstained.
PROPOSED FY2020 CITY BUDGET: Mayor Fritz stated he was going to begin by reading a statement that reflects the City Council’s position at this time. Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly requested the statement not be read as it does not reflect everyone on the City Council’s position and is bias to potential voters. Mayor Fritz read the statement that is filed as part of these minutes.
City Manager Chabot advised the proposed budget is dealing with nearly a $100,000 health care increase and we want to grow and aspire this year. The towns of Ferrisburgh and Panton have been asked in recent years to contract with the City for police coverage but declined. That alone is an indication that we do not need the amount of officers that we have; budgeted police department revenue was $80,000 and we have received $64,000. He apologized for the executive branch leak on his proposed cuts in the police department (elimination of two officers) and clarified they are not a reflection of officer performance; he did not feel a police department budget of 38 to 40 percent of the overall budget was sustainable. Using the current fund balance, we would need a .185 cent increase in the tax rate if those two positions were reinstated.
Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly questioned various budgeted expenses. She stated she is not criticizing the budget being proposed but does support the police department and doesn’t want to see a reduction in the force. She would like to see every line item reviewed and cut where possible. There was a sizeable fund balance carried forward last year, she advised, and can’t see where that money went. How did we end up in a deficit position was her question. Resident Tim Cook felt the police department has a strong foundation, we have an aging population and there are new sidewalks needed. There are many legs in local government, he advised, and all of them need to be maintained. It has been all about the police department for a long term; time to move forward with the others.
Several people in attendance spoke to the proposed cuts in the police department budget. The majority of those speaking supported not eliminating any officers. Police Chief Merkel advised ten years ago the department had 5 fulltime and 4 part-time officers. Today the department is operating with 7 fulltime (plus one that is paid through a grant) and 1 part-time officer. We have not had one fatality during that time period, he advised, and asked everyone to support the department. Alderman Benton acknowledged support for the department but also recognized the expense. He felt the change should be gradual; perhaps reduce one officer this year. Mayor Fritz reiterated the proposed budget calls for an increased tax rate of .125 cents compared to .185 cents with two officers added back in. Alderman Koenig advised we have aging structures, the pool needs resurfacing, and 50 percent of our people live below poverty level. This is not a police issue, he stated, it is about dollars and cents. Alderman David Small advised it is safe in Vergennes, we have amazing schools, we can walk to restaurants and we have plenty of natural resources. The City Council is struggling with how to fund all our assets as well as knowing we need a major sewer upgrade. Vermont is in an economic crisis and we are headed towards a recession, advised Alderman Austin. We need more revenue that needs to come from somewhere as we attempt to keep our tax rate below a dollar. This is a miserable decision, he stated. Alderman Lowell Bertrand stated he is in favor of supporting the police department but does not want to see a .185 cent increase in the tax rate.
Mayor Jeff Fritz recessed the meeting at 8 p.m. until June 28th at 6 p.m. when decisions will have to be made.
RECESSED: Mayor Jeff Fritz recessed the meeting at 8:10 P.M. until Friday, June 28th, at 6:00 p.m.in the Opera House when decisions would have to be made.
Vergennes City Clerk