BRATTLEBORO - The Selectboard is going to ask the members of Representative Town Meeting to consider using some, or all, of the money in an Agricultural Land Protection Fund to help offset taxes next year.

The board voted 5-0 to take the question to Representative Town Meeting in March.

The town has about $95,000 in the fund which is available to farmers who might need the money to help conserve land that might be coming up for sale.

But the money has not been used for 15 years, and Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said it might make sense to use the money in the fund to help defray the projected tax increase which could end up being between six to 15 cents next year.

"We have been searching all corners, near and far, for potential money to contribute to various projects going on in the town, particularly seeking to defray the costs of the police-fire facility going forward," Gartenstein said. "It certainly seems like an appropriate time to consider whether this is a loan fund that should remain in effect and in place, or whether those funds should be re-purposed for another use that is more pressing at this time."

Town Meeting Representatives approved the fund in 1985, and two loans have been given out since then.

A loan of $45,000 was made in 1988 and repaid in 1991, while a second loan for $50,000 was distributed in 1998 and repaid the following year.

West Brattleboro farmer Charlie Robb said farmers have many more funding options now than they had in 1985 when the fund was started, and he said he thought farmers could get by without the town-run loan fund.

"We appreciate what the town has done for us," Robb said. "I think we are all set."

But Jesse Kayan, who is new to farming, said that while there are more resources, the town fund is more valuable because the money might be easier to access when land does become available.

Kayan said it might be good for the town to retain the fund.

"I understand this loan fund to be a short-term loan, and a place holder for money that might come from the Land Trust, or from fundraising, or for from some other funding. I would urge you to think about keeping the fund open."

With Tuesday night's vote Town Meeting Representatives will talk about the fund at Town Meeting and vote on whether the town could use the money this year to offset the tax increase.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.