At its upcoming February 28th meeting, the Select Board and School Boards will present the combined FY 2018 budgets. This year, the Town’s combined General, Highway and Fire Fund budget as proposed, and if approved, will result in a tax rate increase of $0.0265 or 2.43%. On the ballot are 13 agencies seeking funding from the taxpayers totaling $336,759. If all are approved this will raise the tax rate an additional $0.0331 bringing the total increase to $0.0596. The largest request comes from the first-time petitioner, the Bennington Rescue Squad at $207,459. At this writing, the school tax rate impact is estimated to increase $0.008 providing the property yield remains at $10,076.
This year, the ballot will include an article requesting tax exempt status for the Rescue Squad as well. This question has been before the voters in the past and routinely approved.
The ballot will also include an article seeking approval for the Town to bond in the amount of $3.2 million to purchase and retrofit 78 Bowen Road, a Plasan property, for a Public Works Facility. The Town first planned to construct a new facility in 2011, but Tropical Storm Irene forced the plans to the shelf. Resurrected this year, it was determined that constructing a new facility would cost $6.2 million. Town staff looked at existing buildings that might work instead. This led us to the 78 Bowen Road property, a real find in that it is in good shape, is energy efficient, centrally located, and provides sufficient space to house all Highway and Water Department employees and much of the equipment. It will allow the Town to consider the sale of its Orchard Road and Depot Street properties. After reviewing bond costs, it was determined that the existing proposed Highway Fund budget need not be increased, but simply restructured to accommodate the cost.
March Town Meeting is just around the corner. The Floor Meeting will be held March 6th at 7 pm at the Bennington Fire Facility. For those interested in the schools, MAU begins the evening at 6 pm, followed by the CDC, and the BSD. The vote will be held the following day from 7 am until 7 pm. There are two Select Board seats and four BSD seats available.
The Town of Bennington Annual Report should be available soon. It contains some information derived from the Citizen Survey recently completed as well as the annual department reports and the FY2016 Audit.
The Select Board has begun to explore a Tax Increment Financing District, a voter approved means to generate monies for infrastructure improvements without raising taxes which will stimulate development from the private sector and enhance the community at large. It is early in the process and does require legislative action this year to allow our efforts to proceed.
In this same vein, it is important to note that the Putnam Redevelopment Group received support from the Select Board to seek a Vermont Community Development Block (VCDB) grant of $1.25 million to move forward with the redevelopment of the Putnam Block properties, a very important project for Bennington’s downtown.
Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.
Stuart Hurd is Bennington’s Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.