At that meeting, the town’s selectboard heard from a variety of voters and businesspeople about ideas for the town’s newly enacted 1% option tax. As we reported last week, the board was considering taking the revenues from the tax and rolling the money into the town’s general fund, without designating it for a specific fund or use.
This idea didn’t sit well with many in town. When the tax was enacted, at the March 2012 Town Meeting, most assumed the revenues would be used to help the town recover from Tropical Storm Irene and economic damage wrought by both the storm and last year’s snowless winter. That was the general selling point that preceded the passage of the tax article.
For whatever reason, along the way that general idea sort of got misplaced. Now, following Wednesday’s meeting, it appears the 1% revenues will be separated out.
As far as what to do with the revenues goes, there’s plenty that can be done. Lowering the tax rate by a couple of cents shouldn’t be one of them. It seems silly to enact one tax to lower another. That message was delivered pretty clearly Wednesday evening.
First, look at the long-term recovery efforts. After Irene socked the village, the town, working with FEMA, put together a plan that identified several key areas that could not only help the town recover but prosper beyond what was there before the flood. While there wouldn’t be enough money to fund all of those efforts, the revenues from the 1% tax could certainly be used as seed money to jumpstart some of those things. The town could hire a “recovery czar” to lead the way on projects, or a grant writer to leverage more funds for projects, or just fund a few of the lower cost items in the recovery plan.
Then there’s economic development. During the past six years, much has been done to identify problems and needs. Wilmington and Dover joined together, hired a consultant, and developed plans for joint economic development. Then they hired staff to carry out some of those plans. Unfortunately, that’s all taken a back seat over the past 18 months, due to staff changes and, of course, Irene. So why not put some of the 1% revenues toward restarting the bi-town economic development efforts?
There are plenty of other things that could be funded as well. Trails, parking lot, or sidewalks are a few things that come to mind. As we said, there are plenty of things to do with the funds. The hardest step is that first one, which the board now appears to be poised to take by creating a separate fund to set aside the revenues while projects are identified.
Kudos to the board. They listened. And kudos to those folks who felt strongly enough to turn out at Wednesday’s meeting. As we said, it’s great when democracy works, and works well.