BENNINGTON -- The municipal tax rate is going up by 2.5 percent.
The Select Board set the town tax rate at roughly $1.02 at its Monday meeting. The municipal rate is made up of three other rates, one for the town general fund, the highway fund, and the fire department. Only the fire department rate was level from last year, while the highway department was up tenths of a cent, said Town Manager Stuart Hurd.
These rates are for those in the Village Fire District. Those covered by Bennington Rural Fire Department pay a different fire rate.
When added to the Vermont homestead education tax rate of about $1.51, the final tax rate for homestead rate payers in the village fire district is $2.52. That will be charged per every $100 of a property's assessed value.
Hurd said the increase is what the board anticipated during budget sessions.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to take over ownership of the median strip that will be created when alterations are made to Northside Drive when the Walmart there moves ahead with its expansion plans. The changes to the road call for the creation of a roundabout. Walmart has all the permits it needs to move forward with the project, but is awaiting final design approval on the road from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Board member John McFadden worried that the state might put something in the roundabout that the town would find onerous to maintain, but Hurd said the town gets to design the landscaping work.
As with the past few meetings, numerous residents from in and around the Silver Street neighborhood voiced their opposition to the Shires Housing project. Shires Housing wishes to build 24 new rental units on land originally permitted for condominiums. The project is for people making between $25,000 and $36,000 per year. Being a $5.5 million project, Shires Housing, a non-profit, is seeking a $700,000 grant from the state. The money has been allocated, but an award agreement has yet to be written and signed. Once that happens the town will be asked to accept the money on behalf Shires Housing. The board has already agreed to support Shire's application, but must still vote on a resolution to accept the money when it comes.
Opponents of the project have asked the board to say "no" on that day, which Hurd said might not be for another two months at least.
Most of those who spoke Monday said they did not wish to see the neighborhood become denser, as they felt it would create traffic problems. Others said it will harm the tax base, while one woman indicated it would aid the "flow of narcotics."
A few have been in favor of the project, but not many.
Board member Jim Carroll said Shires Housing Director John Broderick has said he would walk away from the project if residents opposed to it agreed to buy the property. Carroll did not get to finish outlining his plan as a chorus of boos filled the room. Board Chairman Greg Van Houten said Carroll should not be speaking for Broderick, who was not at the meeting.
Board member Michael Keane, at the end of the meeting, said that based on what he has been hearing from people opposed to the Shires project, it may not be that issue alone that has people upset. He said the board should let the community know it is hearing their concerns and is sensitive to them.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.