Planners mull development fund

MANCHESTER - The planning commission is considering a possible rise in taxes for a contingency fund for future improvement projects in the town of Manchester.

During the planning commission's meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, a motion was approved to discuss the idea for this raise in taxes for a contingency fund with the Selectboard.

The idea was suggested by board member Bill Drunsic, who proposed the idea to develop a fund for future improvement projects for the town of Manchester that includes the removal and back-lotting of power lines and the Depot Street traffic calming project, among others.

"The transportation committee along with the planning commission has identified other projects that need to be done," Drunsic said. "One of them is related to the roundabout project and that is to finish the back-lotting of the power lines on Main Street, there just wasn't enough funding."

"The second piece is the traffic calming project on Depot Street. I think it is a general feeling that we want to see this accomplished sooner rather than later," he said.

Added Drunsic, "I think it's safe to assume that both of these projects will not be accomplished without some substantial local match." The board recognized the fact that people are starting to look at Manchester more and more with the recent developments of the roundabout and the park house and that without some sort of funding from the town other improvement projects could take a substantial number of years.

"So, how do we build up a fund?" asked Drunsic. "There have been talks in the past about having a special tax assessment district, or something to that nature, related to the commercial core. I think it's time to bring that discussion to the forefront for the purpose of starting to build this fund."

There were talks about just taxing the commercial core which, according to Drunsic, is evaluated at around $100 million worth of property, so about a penny worth of tax would raise roughly $10,000. However, Drunsic pointed out that the town would need to accumulate $30,000 to $50,000 a year to make the fund meaningful.

"Our total property evaluation in town is about $1.4 billion, so property wide across the town would raise 140,000," he said.

John Ringwood, board member, said that since these projects would increase property values around town it might be more prudent to tax both the commercial and the residential, which will lower the amount of the tax increase to less than a penny.

As the rest of the board members started thinking about the best ways to implement a fund like this Drunsic said that we he just proposing the idea the discuss how to do so.

"I was suggesting to this board that we take some sort of action to move this discussion along. I am not putting specific recommendations on the table, I am throwing out options to start generating the discussion. It is my belief that if we want to see these projects move forward then we have to develop this kind of fund." he said.

The next step in the process is to bring idea in front of the Selectboard for consideration.

"I will take a look at it and we can go from there," said town manager John O'Keefe.


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