Wilmington residents weigh in on 1% option tax

Saturday January 12, 2013

WILMINGTON -- It was a packed room, with residents and the Selectboard discussing the 1-percent local option tax voters put into effect around the same time last year.

"It’s my hope that the conversation has changed," said Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold. "And we use this for economic development and use these monies to help the community."

Grinold spoke at the last Selectboard meeting on the importance of these funds to Wilmington residents.

On Wednesday night, voters tried to convince the board to set up a reserve fund for economic development using money from the 1-percent option tax funds. Residents were opposed to setting up a general fund, which could be used to offset taxes in the future.

Voters will most likely decide whether a capital account should be set up when the Selectboard puts articles on the budget for how the option tax funds could be used.

Wilmington Town Attorney Bob Fisher is looking into the language of the articles, which will be discussed at the next Selectboard meeting on Monday.

Fisher reiterated to the board and public that the Selectboard could choose whether it wanted to put funds from the option tax, which will start coming in soon, into a general fund or a capital reserve fund.

"That’s a policy decision," said Fisher, of creating a capital reserve account for the option tax funds.

The board spoke of the option tax funds first and the public gave testimony afterwards. The board then spoke again.

For some public comments, applause followed, especially those pertaining to improving Wilmington and designating these option tax funds for future projects. Economic development is what the residents were mostly agreeing to use the funds for. Some thought the idea of offsetting taxes was ridiculous.

The funds are considered revenue, and any decisions must be approved by the public, after a budgetary line item is created by the Selectboard.

For an economic development plan or project, a reserve account with a designated purpose would be the first article for voters to approve, then a second article that would tell voters how the account would be funded by the option tax funds.

Fisher is checking to see if the board can use economic development as the specific purpose for a capital account, because there needs to be a purpose if the account is going to be set up.

"Usually when you set up a reserve fund, you have a very specific purpose," Town Manager Scott Murphy told the Reformer. "Does economic development qualify? It’s up to our attorney right now. We’ll have the answer by Monday."

Selectboard member James Burke mentioned that the board did not advocate offsetting taxes, but it had been something that other towns with local tax option had done in the past. It was among the ideas to explore, especially being that this is its first year, and voters will ultimately decide what the funds should be used for.

The Selectboard is going to discuss the information gathered from the public and itself. The board will meet again on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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


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