Friday January 18, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Town Manager Scott Murphy began Wednesday night's discussion on a capital reserve fund warning by stating that there have been "many discussions on the 1 percent local tax option."

It's no secret that voters want to see the revenue from that tax be used to finance a capital reserve fund for economic development.

"If we don't invest in our town, people are going to leave in droves," a member of the public told the Selectboard at its meeting on Wednesday night.

The board voted 3-2 to approve articles 10 and 11 for a warning that says the reserve fund will be funded by "all the proceeds of" the local tax option revenue and it will be used for economic development and community development.

Voters will decide at Town Meeting whether or not this capital reserve fund will be established for the local tax option revenue.

Next March, voters will decide again if the option tax revenue should continue to be placed in the reserve fund if it is approved this year.

Last week, about 22 voters voiced their opinions that the local tax option funds should not be used to offset taxes.

The Wilmington Selectboard has now been faced with the challenge of creating two articles for Town Meeting that have precise language and depict what the voters want to use the capital reserve fund for. Town Attorney Bob Fisher has offered his guidance in choosing the language and determining what the board should propose as uses for this fund.

The board also decided that it would be a good idea to show voters examples of community development and economic development before Town Meeting.

"I don't feel it is in us to build a big Taj Mahal," Selectboard member Susie Haughwout told the public. "I ask you to conjure up some trust."

She favored the language that included community development because it could perhaps bring more projects up that voters would like to see.

It had been mentioned that the board could always choose to ask the voters for approval on what projects the capital reserve fund should be used for, if they approve the reserve fund.

Executive Director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Adam Grinold has been vocal on his concerns with the use of local tax option funds. He had brought up the point that the voters had decided to put an extra tax on themselves, so he supported not voting every year on whether or not to put the funds in this proposed capital reserve fund.

This is a stance with which many other voters agree.

Grinold mentioned that there is "a mechanism to dissolve it," which could be in the form of a petition if voters change their mind on putting the revenue in the capital reserve fund. A special meeting could then be scheduled and voters could work to change where that revenue should go.

Another idea that some thought could work would be approving the articles for three years, which would establish the capital reserve fund and have projects that fit the definition for economic development and community development. Then the public could vote on it again, giving it more than just one year to see if the projects have been beneficial to Wilmington

The concern comes from voters who think that arguing over where the revenue should go each year isn't productive for the town.

Grinold said that voters approving the local tax option last year had been symbolic of "a decision to invest."

"If we're coming back in a year, we're not investing," he said. "We're saving."

Voters can petition the articles in the warning until Jan 24.

"I think what the public wanted was the same thing Tom (Consolino) wanted, which was not to have this question come up each year, to fund it in perpetuity until voters vote to re-discuss it," Murphy said. "As it stands now, it will be discussed next year."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.