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Burlington city council approves order that puts cost of bonds at 5.7 cents on the tax rate

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Burlington’s city council has taken another step toward a bond referendum in this year’s general election, clearing the way for the city’s residents to weigh in on this proposal before it’s enshrined on the ballot.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council approved a formal order for these general obligation bonds, which would be presented to the city’s voters in two pieces that, together, could raise up to $68.5 million for various big-ticket projects – and add 5.7 cents to the city’s property tax rate.

Peggy Reece, the city’s finance director, conceded that this order is far from the final word on these general obligation bonds.

“This is just one more box to check,” she said before Tuesday’s 4-to-0 vote, “and another of many steps in the process, in order to have the GO bonds on the November ballot.”

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Reece added that the next step will be a state mandated public hearing on July 16 that will give the city’s residents a chance to speak up about these bond packages prior to their addition to November’s ballot.

If the council follows through on its plans for the bond referendum, the city’s voters will be posed with two additional questions when they go to the polls on Tuesday, November 5.

One of the proposed ballot questions will ask residents to sign off on $21.5 million in bonds to raise funds for street repairs and resurfacing, sidewalk construction, and streetscaping within the city’s downtown business district. The second question will concern $47 million in bonds for recreation-related endeavors, including a proposed expansion of Burlington’s Paramount Theater and the construction of a new building to house the Maynard Aquatic Center. Also included in the second bond pack is an allotment of up to $30 million for a new Sportsplex in the western part of the city.

The bond order that the council approved Tuesday estimates that, if both bond packages prevail with the voters, the city would have to expend $3,425,000 a year over a 20-year period to pay off the debt on the bonds. The city’s calculations assume an interest rate of 5.334 percent and a total interest payment of $38,436,720 over the life of the bonds. The bond order projects that the city’s debt payments would equate to an additional 5.7 cents on the property tax rate, which currently stands at 48.36 cents for every $100 of property, an increase of almost 12 percent.

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