WILMINGTON -- After weeks of careful review, the Selectboard has come up with a $4,101,700 budget to propose to voters.
If approved, the amount to be raised through property taxes would be $2,890,522.
"This is a decrease of over four cents, which is good news," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy. "It’s almost a 10 percent decrease. It’s probably the best a town can give, given the circumstances with the education fund."
On Dec. 18, the Selectboard heard testimony from members of the citizen review group that has offered to review the budget, similar to the way that the Budget Review Committee had done in years past.
After last year’s Town Meeting, information had been relayed to the town that the committee was no longer part of state statute. It disbanded, but a new group emerged.
Two members of the citizen review group proposed that the Selectboard rethink using additional funds that will be collected through a surplus gained by delinquent property tax sales as well as money from the sale of lots near the Deerfield Valley Airport to the Hermitage Club for other projects. Altogether, there is $590,000 to be applied against taxes.
Rather than using that money towards reducing residents’ tax bills, review group member Fred Houston specifically called for using the additional funds to support moving the Town Offices, Fire Department and Police Department buildings out of the flood zone. He wanted the board to establish a reserve fund for the venture.
"We all know we’re going to have to move (the buildings) at some time," Houston said. "That money in that account will allow (those buildings) to be moved within a very short period of time. It might not even require additional bonding."
The town is currently in the process of having a study completed that will ultimately give an idea of where those departments could be safely housed from future flood events. The study to find the best location is being conducted through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief funding.
Without a definite plan in motion, the Selectboard decided not to create a reserve fund for that project.
"It’s not a good position to be in without a plan. It’s not that we object to what you’re saying," said Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter, recalling difficulties with the Town Garage construction. "I just don’t think that’s the way Wilmington voters make this happen."
The majority of the $590,000 will be applied to reduce the taxes.
"The board will take $100,000, if voters agree, and use it to apply towards the creation and first funding of an emergency disaster fund," said Murphy.
In January, the Selectboard will start discussions with the intent to define this capital fund. It will be similar to last year, when the board handled defining the established capital fund for economic and community development using the 1 percent local option tax revenue.
"There was some discussion and input from the public and we came up with a definition that was acceptable. It will be the same process to determine what the emergency disaster fund would cover," said Murphy. "The original term was a rainy day fund. That was what an accountant suggested setting up for future events. That’s the purpose of it."
Defining the emergency disaster fund should be a simpler task. Where last year’s talks regarding the local option tax revenue had the meeting room filled up with residents a few times before Town Meeting, Murphy expects this proposed fund will not draw as big of a crowd.
"People understand what a rainy day fund is," he added. "I think as a general rule, they’ll understand it a little more than an economic development fund."
The term rainy day fund caused some concern for members of the board.
"It could leave it up to any minor difficulty that could crop up that was unexpected," said Murphy.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.