At its Feb. 8 meeting, the Select Board and school boards presented the combined FY 2017 budgets review. I have previously discussed the town's budget and probable impact. The extra really good news is that the combined education tax for Bennington property owners will be reduced by $0.046. When that is combined with the towns' small anticipated tax increase, the net effect is, at least, a $0.02 reduction in the property tax rate. The BSD ballot also contains a question seeking approval to borrow $4.4 million to energy retrofit the elementary schools. The efficiencies achieved will offset 51 percent of the costs of the bond and may eliminate the need for major school construction for many years.
Remember, the Town's March ballot will include 13 agency requests for funding totaling $124,300. If all these ballot articles are approved, it will add an additional $0.012 to the tax rate.
March Town Meeting is just around the corner. The Floor Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility. For those interested in the schools, MAU begins the evening at 6 p.m., followed by the CDC, and the BSD. As I noted last time, three Select Board seats are open. Two incumbents, Sharyn Brush and John McFadden are not seeking reelection. There are seven candidates running for the three seats. Alphabetical by last name, they are Mike Bethel, Jason Bushee, Jeanne Conner, Tom Jacobs, Jeannie Jenkins, Michael McDonough, and Don Miller. The Floor Meeting for the various boards will be Monday evening February 29th. The vote will take place the following day, Tuesday March 1. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
The Select Board took two other actions at the Feb. 8 meeting, both important steps in improving the quality of life for Bennington residents and those who visit us. The Board voted to support the new Park at 336 Main Street. A longtime vacant lot, purchased by Ms. Heather Maneely and generously donated to the Town for a park, the lot will provide a quiet space with landscaping, night lighting, sitting areas, and a water feature. It will be located between Fiddlehead at Four Corners and Katie Cleaver, metalsmith. The design is now completed. Fund raising will start soon. The BBC is spearheading the fund raising effort. Funds will be maintained and dispersed by the Town.
The second important action was the acceptance of the wetlands management plan for the Greenberg Headwaters Park, a 168 acre conserved parcel owned by the Town that supports a biologically diverse ecosystem, in a natural setting just minutes from the downtown. Acquired with the assistance of a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund and private donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations, this park will provide wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities.
The relatively storm-free winter has provided the Town with opportunities to complete several minor projects, perform roadside maintenance, install informational kiosks and parking areas at the Greenberg Headwaters Park, and prepare for our spring work. If the spring comes as the Groundhog has predicted (early), we will look to begin some major projects early as well. We are ready for the Park at 336 Main.
We hope to move on the Fuller Road bridge deck replacement project. We may undertake the construction of the parking area for the White Rocks Trail if the necessary easements have been secured. Of course, the Groundhog could be wrong. We'll have to wait and see.
Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 4421037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.