BENNINGTON -- After its second and final budget work session, the Select Board decided it would likely approve a budget with an increase of about 2.5 percent.
The board will vote on a final version at its Jan. 27 regular meeting. It will then go before voters in March. At around $11.3 million, it includes the budget for the Highway Department, Police Department, and Fire Department.
After an executive session, the board voted to increase the salaries of the town manager, town treasurer, and town clerk by 2 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2 percent respectively. Most of the increased expenses came from insurance costs, health care, and negotiated wage increases.
The highway department's budget is straightforward, said Town Manager Stuart Hurd. He said the town will cut back on some paving in order to repair the bridge on Coleville Road, part of which the town hopes to fund with state highway grant money.
The board decided to put $25,000 in the solid waste management budget which may go to the Bennington County Regional Commission if it takes over the administration of the town's solid waste. Hurd said this is a job he has been handling since he was an assistant town manager, but changes to state law may add more requirements and complexity. The money would be a fee to the BCRC, which would hire a full time person to manage not only Bennington's solid waste, but other towns as well. The board would still have to sign an agreement before they money was spent, however, and the process is a long way from being completed.
Hurd said the state has already passed a law requiring organics be removed from the waste stream by a certain date. Ultimately the town is in a good position to meet these challenges, as it has allowed TAM Organics to develop a compost facility on town land.
Board member Thomas Jacobs said $25,000 is a relatively small fee, given what the state will eventually require of towns when it comes to waste management.
Bennington County is the only county in Vermont without a solid waste management district. A patchwork of agreements are in place between the Northshire towns, and Bennington and Woodford. Board Chairman Joseph Krawczyk, a former House representative, said there was an attempt to create such a district in Bennington about 10 years ago, but it was resisted because the requirements were too onerous.
The board declined to budget $6,200 for nine Frisbee golf goals as part of the recreation budget. Recreation Director Tracy Knights said the nine new goals would make for a complete course so tournaments could be hosted, and thus fees charged. Board members said the price was too high for the budget, but were in favor of exploring other options to acquire them.
The board did approve buying a dehumidifier for the Bennington Recreational Center's basement to prevent mold.
At its previous work session, the board looked over budgets for the police and fire departments. The police budget is 3 percent higher than last years and includes a "new" full time officer position. The job was frozen in the late 1990s for financial reasons but Police Chief Paul Doucette said the time had come to thaw it.
The board also approved an additional $5,000 to go towards the Bennington Battle Day Parade. This year will mark the parade's 50th anniversary and its planners wanted it to feature more than it typically does. Board members were supportive, and this being an election year decided to ask running politicians for contributions in exchange for being in the parade. All except Governor Peter Shumlin, whose presence is requested every year because of his station.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.