Wilmington considers procedure for local tax option
WILMINGTON - Since voters approved a capital reserve fund for local tax option dollars, the Selectboard will be deciding on a procedure for choosing projects that seek money from a revolving loan fund.
"What I've suggested is a cut-off," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy at the Selectboard meeting on March 6. "My first thought was $50,000. So any project $50,000 or above would require voter input. Any project below, the Selectboard can authorize. It would give voters input and guidelines to go by."
Murphy explained that if a multi-year project came to the Selectboard and it would need, say, $25,000 one year and then $25,000 the next year, it would need to go to the public.
Selectboard member Susie Haughwout liked the idea. She thought "threshold" would be a better word, rather than "cut-off." She also talked about adding a clause to the procedure.
"Personally, I'd like it to say that the Selectboard reserves the authority to take anything to the voters," Haughwout said. "In my mind, I guess the reason I'm say this is because some items we may want the community's support and buy-in."
She said Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold brought up the question, what if a project asked for $49,000?
"There may be appropriate times to go to voters and I think we want to reserve this right," said Haughwout.
Selectboard member Jim Burke said price estimates for projects should be as close to final costs as possible.
"When presented to the Selectboard, we need the final number," Burke said. "Without any unforeseen problems."
Board member Diane Chapman thought it would be difficult to foresee some issues. She said that if a project were to cost $45,000, "this may trigger (that) this should go to voters." She liked the clause that Haughwout brought up.
It was Jacob White's first meeting as a Selectboard member since Town Meeting. He agreed on the threshold and thought maybe even $30,000 projects should go to voters.
"I want the public to know there's a project coming," he said. "(It should be announced) a couple weeks minimum so that people hear about it and can give us their input on what they want."
Murphy then talked about "the two pots of money," which referred to monies that have already started to be collected for fiscal year 2013 and monies coming in fiscal year 2014. He said there had been some confusion over the two amounts.
"The threshold would be applying to the fiscal year 2014 pot of money," said Murphy.
Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter asked how the board would "elicit projects" for fiscal year 2014.
"I imagine we'll see projects before then that are on the horizon," Murphy said. "People will say, ‘What can we do with this funding?' I think there will be enough projects available for the funding. It's just a matter of how quickly you want to fund them."
Streeter thought it would be a good idea to plan on having a special town meeting, "fairly close to fiscal year 2014."
"We can determine with voter input what the budget is to spend on in September," she said. "I'm not comfortable with a rolling series of decisions on what's a worthy project. I think we should let everyone weigh in on what's on the agenda."
Haughwout thought the board could create a budget, "for a time prior to Town Meeting," in September or August. It would be a special town meeting.
Streeter suggested creating a budget for voter approval, in which amendments can be made.
A Wilmington resident brought up the Wilmington Fund.
"We haven't had many takers for taking loans from the Wilmington Fund," she said.
The board then discussed not using all the revenue in the collections from the 1 percent local option tax. Instead, members believed that they should hold onto certain amounts for emergencies or other projects that pop up.
"I'm in favor of holding onto some of the portion of the money, as other portions are going out. As we talked about at the third meeting about the 1 percent," said Haughwout. "This needs a time of review and monitoring."
Murphy thought that going to banks and asking about applications that were just short of receiving a loan would be a good way to find worthwhile projects in town. He had done that in the past when he worked in Bennington for the Downtown Designation.
July 1 could be the first day that the reserve fund will be set up, but Town Attorney Bob Fisher told Murphy that the reserve fund could be set up at anytime now that voters have approved it and there are no restrictions.
The board discussed looking into the Do-It Marketing program in Dover, which allows businesses limited amounts of funds to make aesthetic improvements that will not only better their establishments' exterior but the town's as well.
Murphy is going to put together an agreement on the procedure and put it on the agenda for the next Selectboard meeting.
At the same meeting, Streeter was elected Selectboard chairwoman. Burke was elected vice chairman and Chapman was elected town clerk.
Streeter thanked everyone for their work at Town Meeting.
"I was really happy with everybody's grasp of the figures and every board member that participated," she said.
The Selectboard decided to keep its regular schedule, which is the first and third Wednesdays of every month at 6 p.m.
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