On December 24, 2014

Rutland County review

By Cristina Kumka

Killington to hold off on tax repeal idea; town may make hires

The Killington Select Board agreed on Tuesday, Dec. 16, without a binding vote, to support hiring a full-time recreation director for an additional cost in the budget for the 2015/16 fiscal year and possibly hiring an assistant treasurer that will come out of existing funds. Select Board chairman Chris Bianchi also announced that the resort will hold off on asking the Select Board to put a question on the March ballot that would ask voters to repeal a portion of the town’s 1 percent local options tax.

Bianchi echoed an editorial by Killington and Pico president Mike Solimano in last week’s edition of The Mountain Times. The resort needs “more consensus from the town before they make any moves like that. They withdrew their request for this year,” Bianchi told the Select Board. In his op-ed, Solimano said he wants the town’s full support before making any decision on the tax but, in the meantime, asked that the town get behind changing the Killington Chamber of Commerce into the Killington/Pico Area Association and restructuring the way the town and resort fund marketing and events. The resort and town would have a seat at the table of the KPAA. Supporting the KPAA is also a top economic development priority for the town in 2015, according to a presentation made by Killington town manager Seth Webb on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Castleton to close on town office sale

The Select Board voted on Monday, Dec. 8, to allow Select Board chairman Joe Bruno to sign the purchase and sale agreement for 556 Main Street, transferring the property over to the Castleton Historical Society by the end of this year, contingent on a stipulation that the building not be torn down or altered. The society exercised its right to purchase the property following a bid from a private developer at auction. The society is buying the 263-year-old town office for $75,200.

According to a Castleton Polling Institute study from 2012, some members of three focus groups said the old town office should be preserved for its historic value.

The town does not have a plan to move municipal operations out of a temporary trailer located across town. Municipal offices moved out of the old town office following mold issues, and in 2012 voters did not pass a bond issue to build new offices, largely because the cost of the move was not clear.

Holly Hitchcock, president of the Castleton Historical Society, wrote in an email last week: “We’re pursuing lots of options. No decisions have been made.” The sale was expected to be complete on Monday, Dec. 22.

Rutland chief speaks on police sacrifice

The first annual Rutland police awards ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 10, featured outgoing Rutland police chief James Baker defending the officers he led for two and a half years through one of the department’s most trying times. “No one understands police work like the fellow officers,” Baker said, referring to critiques of police work in the aftermath of citizen deaths involving police in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N. Y.

Baker cited a New York Times column which reported lower life expectancy among police, with suicide rates among police three times higher than any other local worker, and the high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among police, noting that two-thirds of the officers involved in shootings have issues that have led most of them out of that line of work.

Unused cash to bring down budget?

The city’s estimated $19 million budget is being eyed for reductions by the Rutland Board of Aldermen, tasked with adopting a spending plan by early January.

An exercise proposed by the mayor and done by the Board on Dec. 15 showed that an average $38 per month savings in municipal taxes would mean cutting more than $3 million, or one third of the city’s staff to be sent home, according to Mayor Chris Louras.

The mayor presented his budget to the board without cuts, but with a slight reduction in municipal taxes of about 1 percent.

Still, at least three of 11 aldermen have made motions or public comments that they want to reduce the budget even further. One of those aldermen is Ed Larson. Last week, Larson suggested using $1 million from the unassigned fund balance, the pool of money the city treasurer uses to maintain available cash while bills are paid out. As of December, the unassigned fund balance was $2.1 million, according to Rutland treasurer Wendy Wilton. Larson also pushed for the hiring freeze of two police officers and holding the line on department head raises citywide, which would save $50,000.

Alderman Chris Siliski made a motion to consider a revised fund balance policy in committee and that idea was approved.

Alderwoman Sharon Davis said last week that her issue was with “revenue coming back to the taxpayers,” or surplus being used to offset taxes.

Alderman Tom DePoy agreed with the mayor. “The meaningful tax relief needs to come from the state,” he said.

Rutland County Review is a regional gathering of news that will appear on a weekly basis in The Mountain Times. For more breaking news updates and government happenings, see Rutland County Review on Facebook.

Cristina Kumka is a Mountain Times correspondent and producer and host at PegTV Channel 21.

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