The town's budget for FY 2015 is now posted and ready for the annual meeting and vote. After two meetings, the board concluded its work by approving a budget that is $480,250 more than last year. Estimated revenues are projected conservatively and, although projected to improve over past years, the increased expenditures, if approved, will not be sufficient to mitigate an increase in the tax rate. We have estimated the FY 2015 tax rate to increase $0.04. Agencies that appear on the ballot, if approved, will add an additional $84,650 to the budget total. The board and department heads had to make some very difficult decisions to present this year's budget for voter consideration. It includes $504,000 to replace the Coleville Road bridge, a bridge deemed in poor condition by state engineers due to failing abutments. We have plans ready to go developed two years ago with state grant funds. The town hopes to secure a $175,000 state structures grant to reduce the impact on property taxes.
This budget also contains funds for an additional police officer to fill a position long ago frozen by the board. Given the recent increase in drug activity, the board felt that this is a prudent decision. It also contains funds to help mitigate the recent discovery of some hazardous materials near the surface of the southerly slope at the former Kocher Drive landfill, now Lower Willow field. There is no imminent threat to the public, but some mitigation measures will be needed.
The ballot contains a bond vote to allow the town to borrow $3.3 million to construct a water tank, pump station and water lines on lands of Southern Vermont College to address water pressure inadequacies in the town system. I discussed this issue in detail in last month's column. A public hearing will be held on this matter on February 24 at 6:15 p.m. as part of the next regular select board meeting.
We all expect that the voters will scrutinize these budgets and any additional ballot requests carefully before voting. Remember, the voters have the final say in these difficult times. The Annual Town Meeting will be held at the Bennington Fire facility on the evening of March 3 at 7 p.m., the floor meeting, and March 4, the vote. The annual floor meetings for the CDC, MAU and BSD begin at 6:15 p.m. and take place just before the Town's floor meeting.
The select board has two seats available. Six candidates have filed to run, including incumbent, Justin Corcoran. The other incumbent, Joseph Krawczyk Jr., has decided not to run. The others seeking election are Mike Bethel, Peter Brady, Frank Dawson, Rachael Fields, and Michael Keane. Those elected are seated on April 1.
I would like to take a moment to personally thank Joe Krawczyk for his 12 years of service to the town. He became a strong supporter of the staff, but we had to earn that support. During his time in Montpelier as a Representative from Bennington, he often told me of Bennington's good reputation upstate and how proud he was to be a part of that. He helped push Bennington forward. His belief in a strong downtown and a healthy and diverse commercial and industrial base kept the focus on the future.
Last year, two new members joined the board, John McFadden and Thomas Jacobs. Once again, the board will see a change in its makeup. The infusion of new ideas and new perspectives to the board offers new opportunities for healthy discussion and board debate. We, in Bennington, have been fortunate that, in spite of individual differences, the select board moves in a unified direction with the best for Bennington at its core.
Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 802-442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.
Stuart Hurd is Bennington's Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues for the Banner.