Town Manager’s Column – August 2021

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

This week the Bennington Select Board set the tax rates for fiscal year 2022. For the General Fund, which includes all administrative functions, police, buildings and grounds, and recreation, the tax rate increased $0.0322. For the Highway Fund, the rate decreased $0.0032. For the Fire Fund (Bennington Fire Department), the rate decreased $0.0009. The total tax rate increased $0.0281to $1.2705 per $100 of assessed value or 2.26%. On a $100,000 home, that will mean an increase of $28.10 in the total Town taxes. This does not include the school tax rate which has not been set at this writing. When I presented the budget in December, we had estimated a tax rate increase of 3.8%; by the time the budget was ready for the voters, that projection had dropped to an increase of 3.4%. The main reason for the reduction in the tax rate increase is growth in the Grand List. It should be noted that the cost of living since February has risen 4.7%. This is expected to drop back as the year goes on and the economy strengthens after the pandemic.

The Board also had the first reading of the Nepotism and Fraternization Policy for the BPD. The second reading is scheduled for August 23rd. At that meeting, the Board is expected to have the first reading of the Code of Conduct Policy. A second reading would then be scheduled for September 13th. If all goes according to schedule, on September 13th, the Board will conclude its review of the major policies of the BPD. The procedures that accompany these policies will be released soon thereafter. The board continues to accept applications for the Community Safety and Equity Task Force which is being established to review the need for a citizen committee to oversee/advise the Police Department. The deadline for applications is August 20th. The Board is seeking as many as eleven members for this task force.

Let me take a moment to let you all know that the office hours at the Town Offices will be changing. Our staff has done an analysis of calls and visits, and we have determined that to better serve our customers we will open at 7:30 AM allowing people to do municipal business earlier in the day, and we will close at 4:30 PM. We found that very few customers seek our services after 4:30 PM. This change will take effect on Tuesday August 17th right after the Battle Day Holiday. We, of course will continue to monitor the needs of our customers and timing of the use of the offices. Our role is to serve you better and remain as flexible as possible in providing those services.

The scheduled interviews for the Communications Coordinator position will take place the week of August 9th. We hope to be able to announce a successful candidate by early late August.

You may have heard about the shortages of police officers throughout the State and the country. Bennington has suffered some losses as well. The good news is we have four successful candidates selected. The State has moved the Police Academy program up to October which is also great news. Our candidates will be able to attend the Academy sooner than next February which should they successfully complete the training will put them on the street several months earlier than expected. We are still down two officer positions. We are also down two dispatchers. Applications for all positions are being accepted at this time.

I wish to extend our thanks to the community for its patience and understanding with all of the construction going on throughout the Town. We do hope to finish up the paving and sidewalk work as soon as possible so hang in there. Thank you.

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.