Option tax reserve fund established in Wilmington

Wednesday March 6, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Residents were concerned over the 1 percent local option tax they put into play last year and particularly wondered how the funds would be spent and decided upon for future projects.

"Who authorizes the expenditure? Because in a normal reserve account, it's not the Selectboard. It is the voters. In this case, the statutes designate the Selectboard as the people who authorize expenditures," said Selectboard member Susie Haughwout. "We have the intent to set a limit. There's been a number that we've been discussing, but we haven't put it in a policy yet. Maybe $50,000. At that moment, those items of that amount, would go directly to the voters. So, it is a Selectboard call, but we are developing a policy where that threshold will be met."

Voters approved creating the Economic and Community Development Reserve Fund in Article 10, "with all the proceeds collected from the 1 percent local option tax," in Article 11.

Matters related to the option tax were discussed. Questions from voters seemed to show that they wanted to know about what the town wanted to do with the money already collected.

The Selectboard had decided that there were four major projects that could be considered economic and community development, which the board could start facilitating fairly soon.

The board wants to establish a revolving loan fund for businesses in town, complete lighting in the West Main Street parking lot, create an unbroken trail system to Dover and assist with funding summer and fall events.

"What we have is this year's collection," said Selectboard member Jim Burke. "It's a start-up. We have not put into policy when people come with projects ... What limit are we going to the voters? What we're trying to do is do some start-up things then create the policy when this is in place. So, before we all go off on a bunch of technicalities, I've said it before, this is brand new. We just have some ideas to get started but we need to watch this grow. As a Selectboard, we will oversee this with public input on every course we take."

In the contested races, Jacob White beat Rebecca Morris, 368-119 for the three year seat on the Selectboard. Incumbent, Jim Burke won the two-year seat beating Miller P. Longbotham, 257-220.

Former Selectboard Chairman Tom Consolino was voted into the Budget Committee along with Fred Houston. John Gannon had 214 votes, the least amount.

Houston had 303 votes. Consolino had 282.

Voters approved Article 2, which asked voters if the town should accept the Town Report. It was approved, 369 votes to 50.

Voters approved Article 3, 244 votes to 162, which asked if taxes should be paid on Aug. 16, 2013 and Feb. 28, 2014.

Article 4 had been amended. The amount had been increased by $7,354, making the budget for raising and appropriating the sum of the general fund, $1,782,553.

One voter asked if a Park and Ride grant that the town had recently received would help out local businesses or just commuters.

"Three to four spaces a day would be used," said Murphy of those using it for transportation purposes. "It is a way to take advantage of money being offered ... through the state."

The Fire Department Equipment Reserve Fund was discussed.

"This appropriation is to refurbish or replace the rescue truck," said Selectboard member Susie Haughwout. "It needs addressing in the next 16-18 months."

She said that truck goes out more frequently than the rest of the trucks.

The Memorial Hall Capital Fund has been a subject that many voters feel passionately about. Article 7 asked voters to raise and appropriate $10,000 for the fund.

"We all know it does need some work," said Haughwout. "We asked for a modest amount to grow that (fund) ... to keep the capital account rolling."

She also mentioned that Memorial Hall gets a lot of work done through "donations, grants and in-kind work."

Lisa Sullivan, whose worked with the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies before taking maternity leave, told Wilmington residents how hard the organization has been working. She invited everyone to come to the SeVEDS meeting on March 19 at Memorial Hall to ask further questions and bounce ideas off each other.

Not all voters were supportive of Article 8, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $5,628 for SeVEDS.

"I think we've put enough of our money in the economic basket," said Cliff Duncan. "I think we should give it a year and see if it's worthy of our support ... Then jump in head first."

Some were concerned that Wilmington sends too much money out of town. Selectboard Chairman Tom Consolino said that by supporting SeVEDS, the town could benefit from "serious federal money."

"If we could get one more person in this town to have a better paying job than they do now, this $6,000 will be well worth (it)," Consolino said.

"I would not consider it an expense," said Mount Snow Valley Chamber Executive Director Adam Grinold. "I would consider it an investment."

"Wilmington cannot do this on its own," said White.

The motion to accept the article passed with some opposition.

Voters also decided to repay Dover for some of the financial assistance it provided after Tropical Storm Irene.

Economic Business Consultants were hired. Marketing and educational lobbying efforts have also been made by Dover.

"We actually had absolutely no money at that point to pay for this recovery effort," said Haughwout. "So Dover graciously raised the money and paid for it."

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


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