WILMINGTON -- Town officials are getting ready to field questions on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m., when there will be an informational meeting at the Wilmington Town Offices to prepare residents for Town Meeting Day.
"People come with their questions to form opinions before Town Meeting," said Town Manager Scott Murphy.
Members of the Selectboard and Murphy will be there, so people can ask about how the board made certain decisions and inquire about budget items.
With a proposed budget more than 4 cents lower -- an almost 10 percent decrease -- from last year, he told the Reformer that it's "probably the best a town can give, given the circumstances with the education fund."
Even though there are additional expenditures, the decrease can be attributed to the Selectboard's decision to apply most of a surplus of $590,000 towards reducing taxes.
On March 4, voters will be asked to consider a tax stabilization policy that would allow new businesses to start off paying a reduced tax rate. Over a five year span, the rate would increase by 20 percent each year until the business is taxed at the full value.
Along with the Selectboard, Murphy came up with a draft for the stabilization policy that he had become familiar with during his time spent working on economic development efforts in Bennington. The Selectboard recommended that the policy go to voters.
"It's not used very often," he said. "It's just an economic development tool to have available if needed."
Although Murphy says it doesn't always work out the way it is envisioned, the policy is meant to attract businesses that are going to focus efforts on constructing or developing a building in the community. By offering the policy, the owners can then "grow into the taxes in town."
"It's difficult for a fledgling business to support 100 percent taxation if cash flow is difficult," he concluded.
Raising money for roads will be considered in Article 5, which asks if voters would like to raise $1,303,675 for the town road budget, while Article 6 asks if they would like to raise $150,000 for the highway town road equipment capital fund.
A highway resurfacing line item in the budget that would go from $217,000 to $270,000 could put the town in a good position, said Murphy.
"We do have a great opportunity in that budgeted item to get a matching grant that could turn that money into almost $400,000 worth of paving. We're hopeful."
The application for the grant will not be due until May or June. But the budgeted amount will need approval before moving forward.
Voters will be asked whether they want to raise $150,000 for the fire department equipment reserve fund. Members of the department have formed a committee to review options for purchasing a new rescue truck. It is a vehicle that goes out on every call. A recommendation from the committee is expected within the next month.
"Our's is past the need of replacement," said Murphy. "It's highly used. Right now, we're keeping it afloat with repairs."
The Memorial Hall capital fund will also be considered. Voters will be asked if they would like to raise $25,000 for future repairs to the building.
With the new energy efficient air conditioning and heating system slated for installation, the doors and windows will need to be addressed in regards to insulation. Electrical upgrades were also mentioned, as was the roofing.
The Pettee Memorial Library has requested a small increase in its budgeted line item. Voters are being asked to raise $12,000 to fund its capital reserve fund.
Based on the library's budget discussions, Murphy said the increase is mostly due to some new programs being developed at a minimal cost to the budget.
Article 10 asks if voters would like to raise $12,000 to fund the playground capital reserve fund, which is funded in different years.
"We desperately need a new playground downtown," said Murphy.
Due to Buzzy Towne Park being flooded and not being replaced, this funding will go towards a new playground. Town officials are looking at possible sites. One that has come up was the Brissette property, which the town purchased in a buy-out through FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Most properties purchased through the program are turned into parks or greenspaces.
Voters will also be asked to raise $5,000 to fund the Town Hall capital fund, which is for repairs in the building that houses the Town Offices.
"We've been doing small amounts of mitigation," said Murphy.
To stop water from flooding in, the doors in the Main Street building were upgraded while oil tanks in the basement were anchored down. The funding is in anticipation of needed repairs in the future.
The proposal for creating an emergency/disaster capital reserve fund will be discussed during Town Meeting. If approved, Article 14 asks voters if they would like to put $100,000 from the fiscal year 2013 surplus into it.
"I think it will be a very interesting discussion. It will be a great example of democracy in action," said Murphy.
Voters will also be asked if they'd like an optional electronic delivery of the Town Report. Other towns around the state have given residents the choice. It is a way to save on postal costs, Murphy said.
"We still would mail it to people who would want it mailed to them and make it available online," he added
The Selectboard approved a funding request for $25,000 from the downtown organization Wilmington Works. The money will come from the 1 percent local option tax fund, not the proposed budget.
"It's money we collected quarterly from the local option tax that the state sends back to us," said Murphy. "We've built up close to $300,000 now."
Recently, there were other requests from organizations that would like to use the revenue for purposes related to economic or community development. Any requests for funds over $50,000 or anything controversial would require voter approval.
"So far, we haven't run into anything like that," said Murphy.
The Twin Valley School District will have two informational meetings regarding Town Meeting. On Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., there will be one at Twin Valley Elementary School in Wilmington. On Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., there will be one at Twin Valley Middle School in Whitingham.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.