Mayor asks UVM to help pay for development

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Streets and sidewalks will be revamped over the next ten years and the city wants UVM to help pay.

The mayor has requested $10 million from UVM and Champlain College by 2026.

The city of Burlington is hoping to receive money from these institutions to counteract the tax-exempt statuses of the 8,000 students who live in residence halls – about 20 percent of the city’s population, according to Mayor Miro Weinberger’s plan.

Under this plan, tuition would rise or faculty numbers would decrease, SGA President Jason Maulucci said.

Weinberger’s office did not respond to Cynic requests for comment.

The 10-year capital plan is a Burlington initiative to improve parts of the city, according to the city’s website.

“Water main breaks, deteriorated sidewalks, old fire trucks, and neglected parks are not just inconveniences,” the mayor’s report states. “They impact businesses’ bottom line, erode people’s ability to enjoy the city’s open space, and hinder economic development.”

While Maulucci said he has a lot of respect for Weinberger, he is not in support of the request, saying the extra cost would fall on students and faculty.

“I don’t think it’s fair for us to pay more than we already do,” Maulucci said. “We already pay the city over a million dollars — not by any mandate, but by our own good will.”

UVM paid Burlington more than $3.2 million in 2015 for according to a report by UVM.

Maulucci said the University’s obligation to be “good neighbors” to the city shouldn’t warrant any additional cost since students pay high prices in tuition.

UVM is considered one of the most expensive colleges in the country for in-state and out-of-state students; Business Insider ranks it No. 5.    

“The city wouldn’t have any [of the] resources it has without the University,” Maulucci said, referring to the positive economic impact students have on the city, as they shop and eat at local stores downtown and on Church Street.

A spike in tuition could be the deciding factor of whether a student is able to attend the University, he said.

This shouldn’t be the reason a student doesn’t get to have a “college experience” at UVM, Maulucci said.

“It’s my opinion that we should be skeptical about any unneeded costs that could make tuition more expensive than it already is,” he said.

As it stands already, the University pays the city of Burlington $1.3 million, said Joe Speidel, UVM’s director of local relations. This amount is substantially more than other institutions in other municipalities are providing, Speidel said.

Students hold different ideas on how the University should work with the city in this regard.

Burlington needs an additional $42 million in revenue for the next five years; for the next ten years, the city has assessed it needs $70 million to finance the projects.

“I think UVM has enough of its own construction projects to deal with,” First-year  Trevor Briggs said.

But sophomore Lauren Lapeak said if UVM has the money, they should be putting it to help the city.

“If it’s necessary, they should help,” she said.

Vice President of University Relations Thomas Gustafson said UVM is “taking the request under serious consideration.”

The money requested by the city is a large amount, Gustafson said.

“A request this large would inevitably affect student costs,” he said. “$875,000 per year for ten years with a two percent inflator. You can do the math. It’s over $10 million.”