BENNINGTON — The Select Board has approved a 2020 tax rate that reflects an increase of 3.47 percent over last year.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd presented the tax rate figures that were approved Monday by the board. He said the increase was lower than had been projected when the fiscal 2021 budget was prepared earlier this year.
Hurd said that in January town staff had projected a rate increase of close to $0.05, or five cents per $100 of property valuation. But the rate set Monday showed an increase of .0419 cents per $100.
The general fund budget was actually up by $0.0431 to $0.0754, while the highway fund rate was down $.0012 to $0.0402, and the fire fund was level with a rate of $0.0842.
The increase was a slightly higher than he would prefer, the manager said, "but I think we were within what we hoped to accomplish."
In addition, the rate was held down despite a hit to the town's property grand list, upon which the tax rate is based, in part because of value declines for commercial properties.
Town Assessor John M. Antognioni said Wednesday that after lister grievance decisions were completed this year, the 2020 grant list total was down about $750,000 from the 2019 grand list.
One of the properties that saw values lowered was the Bennington Square Shopping Center, which sold in February for $750,000. The center had been assessed for taxes at $3.65 million.
The overall town budget totals just under $14 million, with the amount to be raised in local taxes $11.82 million in figures provided by Hurd.
Hurd also noted the cancellation of a jointly funded initiative this year with the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, in which the SVSU would have paid two-thirds of the cost for three new police officers, who would work both in elementary schools and also in the community. The SVSU decided not to hire the resource officers this year, he said.
"Effectively, it leaves us with $75,380 in new monies," he told the board. "How we use the funds will be influenced by the reformation decisions of the police department now underway."
The town and community are currently working with consultant Curtiss Reed Jr., executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, to implement changes in Bennington Police Department policies and procedures recommended after a review by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien