Vermont has often been a trend-setter when it comes to advancing progressive agendas. In the realm of public finance, the state is no different. Since 1996, Vermont has been selling lower denomination Citizen Bonds, available only to Vermont residents, in denominations as low as $1,000. In 2015, Vermont sold $28.52 million in Green Bonds, marking the first time that the state targeted investors with socially responsible investment objectives in order to fund projects that benefit environmental and/or climate initiatives.
Working with Neighborly, the city of Burlington, Vermont joined this state tradition of using lower bond denominations to develop deeper connections between residents and their community’s financing programs.
The bonds sold by Neighborly, in $1,000 denominations, will help fund a portion of the city’s 10-year Capital Plan and support components of the City’s Sustainability Program. Use of proceeds from the $5.144 million bond sale are expected to include, but are not limited to, improving bike paths, planting trees, replacing sidewalks and improving waterfront access to Lake Champlain.
Over 200 residents initially signed up to invest on Neighborly’s platform, unlocking new opportunities for these individuals to participate in local government and have their hand in the City’s capital investments.
In fact, investor feedback to Neighborly was exactly that. Some buyers expressed interest in investing because they lived next to the bike paths that were being refurbished. Others said how, as business owners, investing in the city’s bonds to fund its capital plan is one way of supporting economic development. And still others wanted to support the financial turnaround of the city by Mayor Weinberger, citing the positive outlook received from Moody’s before the transaction.
“I am excited about the potential for this award (Neighborly Bond Challenge) and this new technology-based platform to bring down the cost of our Sustainable Infrastructure Plan for the 21st Century. I hope voters will see…another example of how the City is using innovation and hard work to bring down the cost of necessary, responsible local government investment.”*
– Miro Weinberger, Mayor of Burlington
More than 100 orders were placed over the three day issuance period. Particularly notable were the number of local residents who took advantage of this unique opportunity. Over two-thirds of the bond issuance were sold to residents of Chittenden County, the county in which Burlington is located. Ultimately, Vermonters bought over 99% of the issuance.
The goal of Burlington’s Sustainability Program is to make the city “a great place to live, work and play.” Neighborly’s mission to modernize public finance is helping cities, like Burlington, take that commitment one step further, by building a new, financial path for civic participation.
Burlington took a long-standing Vermont tradition and put its own unique twist on it. The City’s leadership and progressive approach will ensure that Burlington residents will benefit from robust critical infrastructure and vibrant community space for years to come.