Tuesday March 26, 2013

CHRIS MAYS

Brattleboro Reformer

WILMINGTON -- After residents approved a capital reserve fund for revenue from the 1 percent local option tax, the Selectboard has been deciding what should be the procedure for dispensing money from the fund.

"So, we’ve talked almost ad nauseam about this tax fund and how to distribute it," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy on Wednesday at the Selectboard meeting.

He sent the board members a copy of a draft policy for how the board will go about making decisions on whether or not to approve projects using the revolving loan fund, which was designated a recipient of the tax revenue. The board has been working on finalizing this procedure since the last Selectboard meeting on March 6.

"It basically says that $50,000 is the limit," said Murphy. "Any funding that is $50,000 or more would require voter approval that’ll come at either the first Selectboard meeting in October or Town Meeting."

He also mentioned that any major projects that need "immediate response," the board could "always call a special Selectboard meeting."

Selectboard member Diane Chapman was concerned about how interested people might receive help in filling out applications.

"We’ve already seen an interest in this funding," said Murphy. "So we’ll just put out a fact sheet that they can complete, then they’ll be there to present at the first Selectboard meeting of each quarter. Anything that’s large is going to require more than a simple application."

Murphy said the larger projects would likely be "well-defined" and town officials would have seen some of the plans prior to any decisions having to be made.

Chapman also asked about what would happen if the board became overwhelmed with projects.

"You may want to see how that goes," said Murphy.

This has been an issue addressed at other Selectboard meetings in the past. Since the local option tax revenue is new, the board still has some things to consider as the process for utilizing the revolving loan fund gets closer to actualization.

"You’re getting at something we’re not quite done with," said Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter.

As in the past, Selectboard member Jake White was most concerned with keeping the public notified about any upcoming projects.

"As long as the public is informed, even of smaller projects, in a timely manner, so they won’t learn about it and can come in and comment on it, is probably the biggest priority of mine," said White.

"And for requests coming in, I guess the Selectboard would reserve the judgment if some off-the-wall requests come in. We have the right to deny it."

Streeter brought up the possibility of the Selectboard proposing projects using the revolving fund loan. She said the language in Murphy’s draft of the procedure should be changed to include the board’s right to suggest projects.

"It’s entirely possible the Selectboard will be proposing projects as well and I don’t think this makes it clear," said Streeter about the draft. "It makes it sound totally initiated by the public."

Murphy will be revising the procedure policy draft with the hopes of it being finalized at the next Selectboard meeting.

In February, the Events Program Fund was discussed, which is a fund created to provide another way for local option tax revenue to be utilized in the town. Event coordinators can seek financial assistance through the fund.

On March 6, Murphy had presented the board with a draft of the fund’s guidelines, which states that $10,000 will be made available in the fund each year.

According to Wilmingtonvermont.us, "The event must be held in Wilmington ... (it) must supply at least an equal amount of funding as the amount it is requesting (a 50 percent match) ... The event should benefit Wilmington residents, businesses and/or the local economy ... The monies will be distributed on a fiscal year basis (July 1 to June 30) on a first-come, first-served basis."

On April 1, the applications will be made available to those interested and it will be for the upcoming fiscal year. The maximum amount of money that the fund will supply is $2,000.

On Wednesday night, Murphy also announced that the Downtown Designation application would be reviewed on March 25. He will know after going in front of the Vermont Downtown Board if the designation was approved. "We should have an answer for you on Monday afternoon," he said.