Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that the City of Burlington, University of Vermont, and Champlain College have now all approved new agreements that include payments by the institutions to support the City’s 10-Year Sustainable Infrastructure Plan. The payments are contingent upon voters approving ballot question number 3 on the March 2018 ballot to support a new infrastructure bond funded by the agreements. The bond would pay for new investments in Burlington’s streets, sidewalks, and other core infrastructure as detailed in the City’s 2016 Sustainable Infrastructure Plan. If voters approve the ballot question, UVM and Champlain would contribute collectively $8.9 million over 20 years to cover all debt service payments on the projected $6.1 million bond in 2018.
“These milestone agreements secure new revenues for the City from UVM and Champlain College to help cover the cost of our sidewalks, roads, and parks that would otherwise fall to taxpayers,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The leaders and students of UVM and Champlain College understand that the future of their institutions are directly tied to the success of Burlington. I deeply appreciate their partnership in ensuring that Burlington’s core infrastructure is properly maintained and improved.”
“The University of Vermont and the City of Burlington have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial, interdependent relationship,” said Tom Gustafson, Vice President of University Relations and Administration at the University of Vermont. “The University benefits from a vibrant, safe, and well-maintained City that attracts students, faculty and staff; provides a valuable setting for volunteer activities and community-based research; and enhances the quality of life for the entire community. Accordingly, the University will increase its long-standing financial commitment to the City, adding to the more than $1.3 million annual contribution for services provided by the City. In addition, as part of the agreement the University and City will improve the safety and environment of University Place, the street to the East of the University’s Historic Green. Improvements being considered include traffic calming measures, new sidewalks, safer crosswalks, repaving and greenbelt reconstruction that will result in a safer, improved streetscape.”
Champlain College photo.
"Champlain has an ongoing commitment to partner with the City of Burlington to address shared goals, which is why we are increasing our existing financial contributions to the City to support the Ten-Year Capital Plan,” said Donald J. Laackman, President, Champlain College. “We want to help ensure that Burlington thrives now and into the future as a place where people choose to earn a college degree, pursue careers and flourish as individuals and community members. In supporting this plan, we are balancing our belief in the importance of joining other community partners in upgrading the infrastructure of the City, with our need for careful fiscal management to maximize affordability and access to education for Champlain College students.”
Details of the Agreements
UVM and Champlain College already make contributions to support the provision of City services in a variety of ways. The new payments outlined in the deal provide revenue to support and properly steward City infrastructure like sidewalks, roads, and parks, and represent about 10 percent of the total investment identified in the City’s 10-Year Sustainable Infrastructure Plan. The institutions’ new investment reflects the reality that these institutions both impact and value City infrastructure like roads and sidewalks.
The contribution each institution makes is proportionate to its relative operating revenues – UVM agrees to contribute an additional $386,000 annually for 20 years and Champlain agrees to contribute an additional $61,890 for the same timeframe for a total annual amount of $447,890 per year.
If the bond is approved by the voters on Town Meeting Day (March 6, 2018), these revenues would be used to pay for the debt service for a 20-year bond the City would take out to pay for infrastructure needs. The City would only bond for an amount that could be covered by the annual contribution from UVM and Champlain of $447,890. While exact market conditions cannot be predicted, assuming that amount for debt service and a conservative four percent interest rate on a 20-year bond would allow the City to bond for about $6 million, or about 10 percent of the expanded capital infrastructure investment projected in the City’s 10-Year Sustainable Infrastructure Plan. Of the $50 million Plan, the City has already bonded for approximately $36 million thanks to the support of nearly 76 percent of City voters in November 2016.
For more details, see the Mayor’s Memo on the UVM and Champlain College Capital Plan Contribution.
Continuing Progress towards Sustainable Infrastructure Goals
The partnership between the City of Burlington, UVM, and Champlain College will continue the City’s progress towards achieving its Sustainable Infrastructure Plan goals, which include more proactively maintaining and replacing its streets, sidewalks, water mains, and more.
The City completed its first season of planned infrastructure improvement projects in November 2017, with a focus on road repaving, sidewalk reconstruction and upgrading the City’s aging water infrastructure along multiple streets. By the end of the season, DPW completed five miles of road repaving (compared to a recent average of three miles/year), reconstructed over three miles of sidewalk (recent average, just over one mile/year) and proactively upgraded nearly three miles of water main (versus decades of only pursuing reactive replacement of broken pipes).
The City will begin its second season of Sustainable Infrastructure projects in spring 2018.