As town meeting grows closer so does the decision of whether to fund the Mark Skinner libraries' operating costs for yet another year - but this year the request has increased by 25 percent to $198,000. This increase makes the library cost to the town greater than our Rescue Service, Fire Department and almost equals the Police Department. Manchester is a small town with a limited taxpayer base. Other town departments such as the Police and Rescue are seeking funding on a regional basis with neighboring towns contributing to their budget. Are the libraries' resources only to be used by Manchester residents - or are they available to our neighboring towns? Has the library considered going to other towns to request taxpayer funding? Should Manchester be funding a private institution with the capability of building a 6 million dollar facility with public funding? These questions should be addressed at town meeting rather than "rubber-stamping" yet another year of funding.
Manchester, along with many other Vermont towns, is faced with increasing operating costs. One of these costs is the interest we are paying on the debt incurred to build our $1.6 million dollar Park House. Note that the Park House has a very nice community room - it would be interesting to see what the usage has been since MSL is touting space available for community use as one of the reasons for town funding. The Education budget, as usual, is also increasing. This is generally ignored by the taxpayers since the larger percentage of them don't pay for the schools due to the "income sensitivity" provision of Vermont law. Why bother to vote against something that you don't pay for? The result has been increasing cost while serving a decreasing school population. The amounts spent on repetitious plant, equipment, and personnel are excessive resulting in Vermont having one of the highest per-capita pupil costs.
The taxpayers who actually pay school tax and support the town with their tax dollars are leaving because of the selective and punitive tax structure Vermont has. The philosophy seems to be that the few must pay for the many! Too bad the "few" are becoming fewer! This is an issue that should be decided by Australian ballot after full discourse and discussion at Town Meeting on March 1.
Editor's Note: This letter was originally printed in the Bennington Banner last week but was received after presstime and could not be included in last week's issue of The Journal.