Response to BBC letter
After reading Mr. Kulkin's letter in the Feb. 3 Banner, I feel I must respond. It is apparent that he is confusing the Downtown Improvement District (DID) and the role of the Town in administering the District versus the Town's role in maintaining the downtown and the Better Bennington Corporation's role as in advocate for the downtown. The DID was established by Charter amendment to provide for a taxing district that could provide funds for many things to enhance and improve the downtown district. The Town has chosen to use its powers of appropriation to fund a portion of the BBC's efforts using funds generated by the downtown tax, a tax paid only by the commercial property owners within the District. This year that appropriation will be $74,508.00, an increase over last year of $4,560.00. It will increase the District tax rate by $0.013 based on last year's Grand List for the District. Any increase in this Grand List will reduce that impact.
The Town, through the General and Highway Funds, maintains the downtown. Obviously, this isn't a BBC function. This includes Bennington in Bloom, furniture and fixtures, trash collection (recycling will be added this year under State mandate), street lighting, sidewalk and street sweeping/clean up, signal lights, crosswalks installation and maintenance, routine sidewalk and street surface maintenance, and park maintenance for Memorial Park (fountain), Merchants Park, and the newly designed 336 Main Street pocket park. The Select Board understood that some downtown maintenance needs to be more focused and more detailed. The Town can't provide the service with its existing personnel. The BBC suggested the re-creation of a part-time position focused solely on the downtown. The alternatives were for the Town to hire additional personnel or contract for this work. On my recommendation, the Board budgeted $13,400 to contract for this work. It saves the town taxpayer the additional cost of FICA, workers comp and liability insurance. The BBC is a logical contractor to work with because it is so inherently invested in making our downtown the best it can.
If this cost were added to the appropriation from the Downtown District, it would triple the impact on our downtown business owners. Why should we do that? As a part of the General Fund, its impact is miniscule. Shouldn't all Bennington property owners share in the maintenance cost for our downtown, the heart of our community? We do now.