Here's a few highlights from this week's meeting of the Bennington City Council:
Budget: We unanimously approved the budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1. The $3.9 million budget funds parks, streets, police, the library, and two office staff. This budget supports the city's share of the 156th Street project (25 percent of the total $3 million cost), our new police chief and the hiring of a sergeant (position to be posted soon), and an increase in library hours (details yet to be announced).
Taxes: We also unanimously voted to leave the city's share of the property tax rate unchanged. We will see growth in property tax revenue; this is mostly a result of new home construction and new lots becoming part of the city, with some of the increase coming from increased valuations as well. By leaving the tax rate the same, we are opting to maintain the city's healthy cash reserve in anticipation of expensive street projects in the coming years.
The good news is that sales tax revenue is also up. This is likely due to a strong economy and online sales taxes, which get divvied up by the state and returned to cities and towns. If this trend continues, and if Bennington can attract more commercial development, we could re-balance our revenue mix and rely less on residents' property taxes.
Street plan: We took a fresh look at the city's One- and Six-Year Street Plan, which will now coincide with budget years starting every October. The plan remains largely unchanged, with high-priority projects including N. 4th Street, Bennington Road between the bridge and the high school, and Bennington Road at the entrance to Ridgewood. Looking further into the future, we discussed the need to partner with Douglas County in its regular maintenance program for asphalt. We think we could make our roads last longer and get bulk pricing by working more closely with the county.
Those are just the highlights. Check out the city's website for the full meeting minutes.
And please, don't hesitate to send me your questions.
Lastly, hopefully you have heard about the spaghetti fundraiser this Sunday, September 15, to benefit Linda Christianson. The event runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Bennington High. Please consider coming out and supporting a true friend to the city and its residents in her fight with cancer.