Letter: Support the budget, reject mayor idea
With the Annual Town Meeting just a month away, I would like to outline the proposed FY2020 fiscal year budget, to be voted on March 5. The town budget presented to the voters this year is increasing $329,470 or 2.53 percent. These calculations include the Bennington Free Library, $488,000, the John McCullough Library in North Bennington, $32,000, North Bennington Recreation, $6,000, Lake Paran, $2,700, and the Bennington Rescue Squad, at $187,500. All are included as line items in the budget following reviews of their requests and subsequent approval by the Select Board.
The town staff and Select Board worked very hard to present a budget that is as balanced with the projected revenues as possible. Please remember, we are projecting revenues that do not include potential grant funds not yet available. These grants, if awarded, will reduce the amount to be raised by taxes. We are also using last year's Grand List. Any increase in the Grand List will mitigate the tax rate impact.
Calculating the tax rates based on this budget and known revenue we project a $0.0235 increase in the General Fund tax rate, a $0.0134 increase in the Highway Fund tax rate, and a $0.0001 increase in the Fire Fund tax rate. Combined the total projected increase in the town's tax rate is $0.037, or 3.21 percent. We ask you, the voters, for your support. The agency requests, discussed below, make up just over $0.01 in the General Fund rate.
The agencies on the ballot, with the exception of the Bennington Free Clinic and the Turning Point Center, are all requesting the same amounts as last year. The Free Clinic, seeking an additional $5,000, is on the ballot by petition for $12,500. The Turning Point Center did not file a request or petition this year. The total amount requested by the agencies is $131,850.
Once again, we are asked to consider a mayoral form of government. Your current town government belongs to you the residents and voters of Bennington. The staff and the Select Board work very hard to ensure that we are responsive, financially conservative, and have your best interests at heart. Looking back over the last 10 years and discounting one-time ballot articles that increased the tax rate in a given year, the average annual tax rate increase is approximately 2.5 percent.
Bennington has survived the recent recession. We have continued to improve the quality of life for all our residents by improving recreational opportunities, pathways, and park lands. We have made and are making necessary improvements to our infrastructure, highways, sidewalks, water and wastewater facilities and systems. We have worked with the State to bring municipal drinking water to those impacted by PFOA contamination. We are supporting new developments in our community including the Putnam Redevelopment Project, perhaps the most transformative project to come to our downtown.
I ask for your support of the current town manager/Select Board form of government. It has served you well.
Stuart A. Hurd,
The writer is town manager for Bennington.
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