Friday February 22, 2013

CHRIS MAYS

Brattleboro Reformer

WILMINGTON -- The Selectboard recently discussed the process it would use to choose projects that will be fueled by funds from the 1 percent local option tax voters approved last March.

"It was agreed some time ago that we want to come up with a group of projects that would be implemented with the fiscal 2013 income," said Wilmington Selectboard Chairman Tom Consolino. "The second goal was to come up with a process by which the Selectboard would determine projects for the future and third, come up with some suggestions if nothing else, certainly tentative, to have in mind for the September meeting when we will have a 12-month history of the income that is coming in."

The process for choosing which projects will be considered for funding from the Economic and Community Development Reserve Fund, will be featured in articles on Town Meeting day. The articles will ask voters if they want to support using the reserve fund as a mechanism for utilizing the option tax revenue.

Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy sent out suggestions to board members for projects to fund for fiscal year 2013 before the Selectboard meeting on Wednesday night. He said the board should assume the option tax would generate about $100,000 in revenue. The town already has received a check for $58,000.

His first suggestion was to set up a revolving loan fund to help start up new businesses or expand current businesses in Wilmington.


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"I thought it would be to set $75,000 as a starting point for that fund," said Murphy.

He said businesses would be allowed to borrow $20,000 maximum and the interest rate for the loan "would be fairly reasonable," at about just over 3 percent.

"The purpose is to generate jobs in Wilmington. It would not be a primary source of lending," said Murphy. "I imagine it would be the second source."

Murphy then said he’d like to see some of the funds go towards the lighting on the West Main Street parking lot. The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce already has received a grant that would go towards improving that lot.

"My hope would be to get lighting up there for the summer months and it would be effective for the spring and winter," he said.

Murphy also suggested putting $5,000 from the tax revenue toward trails. He said the Bi-Trail Committee, which is made up of Dover and Wilmington residents, has been looking to connect the towns through existing trails.

"Dover is willing to work with us financially," Murphy said. Murphy’s last idea was to set up an event fund, at a suggested amount of $5,000.

"It would be a pot of money that when it’s gone, it’s gone," he said.

Murphy cited the Blueberry Festival as an event that the revenue could perhaps help fund.

"There are things down the road that need funding," said Consolino in regard to upcoming events, citing a film and television festival coming to the Deerfield Valley next September.

When discussion turned towards the amounts suggested by Murphy, Consolino thought it was too soon to talk about.

"The figures for now are carved in J-ello," joked Consolino.

He asked the board if it was comfortable with those four projects, which members agreed they were. The board then reviewed Murphy’s suggestions.

"I think we owe the voters some idea of what our process is going to be. When do we go to the board? When do we notify the public about our discussions?" Consolino said.

Murphy suggested setting a monetary limit for projects. If any projects need more funding, it would have to go to voters. Projects that were lower in cost would go straight to the Selectboard.

Board member Meg Streeter recommended having a separate budget and plan, along with estimates, concerning the use of the option tax revenue as well as the revolving loan fund.

"I think it’s really, really important that there’s an effort at transparency for all of this," said Consolino. "If this board is going to discuss expenditures of this 1 percent tax, it’s got to be clearly expressed in the agenda, so people can show up and hear about it."

He cited earlier meetings, where people were upset that the option tax had not been clearly warned in the agenda. He suggested putting out a notice for at least a week before the board meets.

In January, discussion began over what the funds could and should be used for. The public showed up at these meetings, filling most of the seats in the Wilmington Town Office Hall, and weighed in. Most showed their support for using the money for improving the town, and many residents opposed using those funds to offset the tax rate in the future.

The board has written articles for the 2012 Annual Report, reflecting the public’s requests, that ask voters if they’d like to "create an Economic and Community Development Reserve Fund whose purpose is to fund economic and community development within the Town of Wilmington," and then if they’d like "to fund the Economic and Community Development Reserve Fund with all the proceeds collected from the 1 percent Local Option Tax."

On March 5, residents will show up to the polls to decide whether the reserve fund will be created.