Wilmington board discusses 1% option tax, puts decisions on hold

Saturday January 5, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Revenue from a local option tax will be made available for the town throughout the year, but the Selectboard is still deciding what can be done with it.

Payments to the town from the tax are expected to reach $100,000 or more.

"We’re close to closing on the budget," said Selectboard member Meg Streeter during the initial discussion on the 1 percent option tax during public comments.

The funds in question come from the option tax that voters approved last March.

The decisions on finalizing the budget and for how to use the funds from the option tax could not be finalized at the meeting on Wednesday night, because the Selectboard wanted more time to consider the matters.

These and other matters will be discussed on Jan. 9 at a special Selectboard meeting announced to tackle finalizing the town budget.

The Pettee Memorial Library still had not submitted information Town Manager Scott Murphy had requested for repairs to be done on the building that may include a new roof project.

"We still got to talk about that," Murphy told the board and the public.

He thinks the library will have all the information for the board on Jan. 9.

There was an issue taken up with the board about whether the public had enough notice about the topic of using the option tax. Adam Grinold, executive director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, thought more Wilmington residents would like to be present and have their voices heard.

It was a matter that had been discussed before on Dec. 19, with no decision being made then.

When Grinold voiced concern over not putting the 1 percent tax option discussion on the agenda for Wednesday night, Selectboard Chairman Tom Consolino addressed the issue.

"We have to adjust that for the next meeting," he said.

The board wasn’t sure what the procedure is for warning the public for the option tax, as it is a new addition to budgetary items that had only been put into effect last year.

"It would have been helpful if we would have delineated or been a little more clear," said Susie Haughwout, board member.

The board discussed using the option tax revenue in the general fund and setting up capital accounts for specific projects in the future.

"Capital accounts need a purpose," Murphy told the Reformer on Friday. "We’d have to have a project."

Consolino suggested that the town take the first three payments that will come in 2013 from that option tax and put that money into a general fund, then ask voters to set up a capital fund and use it to offset taxes in the future.

The board could then make articles to start another capital account, at some point, for a project or purchasing equipment for the town.

Defining how local option funds will be used was also discussed. The phrase "town revitalization" was used by some members.

"Let’s hope at some point, we’re vital and someone wants to move town hall out of the center of town," said Haughwout. "Revitalization is not a broad enough category for me."

The town hall is in an area where there is a high-risk for flooding during storms.

Haughwout also reminded the board about the other businesses, who were not set up downtown, that were devastated by the flood during Tropical Storm Irene, but had received no assistance because the property was not in the Historic Review District.

This was to bring attention to the fact that the funds from the 1 percent option tax come from the taxpayers, and projects are voted on.

Another issue brought up was the fact that some residents of Wilmington are second-home owners who may not care about the downtown village and town revitalization. These residents may be more concerned with lowering property taxes or improving resources.

It is ultimately up to the Selectboard to make proposals for projects that use the option tax revenue through the creation of a capital account, but those projects still have to be approved by voters.

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


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