On March 1, 2023

Town of Killington plans for growth

Voters asked to approve budget, purchase/renovation of new town hall and TIF bond for municipal water and road reconstruction 

By Polly Mikula

Killington voters will be asked for approval on three budgetary items on Town Meeting Day, March 7.

Article 5 ($47 million TIF bond) has gotten the most attention over the past few weeks and for good reason: it will have the greatest impact on the future of Killington town and resort. But consequently, Article 4 (the purchase of the post office building) as slipped a bit under the radar. And Article 3, the general fund budget — which in most years is scrutinized — has hardly been addressed. 

Here’s a look at each of those budgetary articles in the order they appear on the ballot.

Article 3

Voters are asked to consider a municipal budget of $6.28 million (up about 4% over last year). Of that $4,339,845 would be raised by property taxes. The balance is made up by non-property tax revenue (such as option taxes and short-term rental registrations, state payments, etc., for estimated $1,735,700) and plus the balance from the 2022 general fund (about $378,945).

The 4% increase over last years budget is mostly due to insurance and staffing, according to town officials.

“We only gave 2% cost of living increase to staff,” the Select Board reported at a regular meeting last month. “The majority is from inflation and health insurance.”

However, the town has also added a few new position to its staff: There’s a new position allocated in finance, another full time policeman (officer Christopher Roy started in October), and for the first time a salaried fire chief (Chris LaHart started in January) — some of whose cost is offset with short term rental registration fees.

Due to greater than projected receipts from its 1% rooms and meals/alcohol option tax, state and federal aid and the expiration of the Killington Road bond, the 4% increase is more than offset. The town tax rate for the proposed budget (FY24) is $0.5472 compared to the current year’s $0.5480 per $100 of property value. 

“There is no fluff in this year’s general fund budget,” said Selectman Jim Haff, who’s historically been a critic of municipal budget spending. 

Article 4

Article 4 asks voters to approve the purchase and renovation of a new Town Hall (the post office building at 2046 US Route 4) for $1.6 million. The cost of the building is $1.2 million, but an additional $400,000 will be set aside for renovations. The post office will continue to lease its portion of the building on the east side of the first floor for at least 15 years, which will offset the cost to the town by $72,000 a year. 

The Select Board is structuring the purchase of the building so that there would be no payments in the FY24 budget. Payments will begin in the FY25 budget, at which time there are other bonds, such as the golf course and road bonds that will be retired.

“The board is sticking to its strategic plan as promised five years ago,” explained Haff. “We’re not taking on new debt before other debt is retired; in other words we’re working with the current tax rate to keep it flat as we take care of the needs of the town and our facilities.”

The current town hall on River Road is 2,500 square feet. The proposed town hall building is 11,000 square feet of which about 3,000 square feet is occupied by the post office. 

“So we’ll have the other much-need 8,000 square feet for the new town hall,” Haff said. 

The town plans to occupy all of that space.

When asked why the town needs a new town hall, Selectman Chris Karr explained at a public hearing that this has been part of the town’s sustainable budget plan for at least five years. But that the plan had called for the town to find land on which to build. 

“After our experience with the public safety building we know how much that can cost… when this building came up for sale for a quarter of what we would have otherwise had to spend, we thought it was the smartest path forward.”

“We all know land is expensive, and building is expensive — like $400 a square foot these days,” Selectman Jim Haff added. “The purchase of this building is under $100 a square foot.”

The town has also outgrown its current building, according to Haff, who is also the interim zoning administrator for the town.

“The town is growing, programs are growing, and there are stricter requirements for record keeping — all that requires more space,” he said, adding by way of example, “I share a table with the planning person, Development Review Board (DRB), and short term rental administrator, we’re just running out of space.”

While the current building is “outdated for the requirements we need at town hall,” it is “a perfect fit for the plans we have for a growing rec department and can also offer space for seniors, and space for historians to keep their records and hold meetings,” Haff said. 

Preliminary plans for repurposing the current town hall call for the basement area to be used for recreation activities (including the rain location for summer camps). The right side of the upstairs (the current clerk’s office) could become the recreation department administration area with the vaults repurposed for use by the historians, who have already officially requested it for their artifacts. The left side of the upstairs (where the town manager and planning admin offices currently are) could become space for seniors.

“I hope you see the value in passing this article as I do,” Haff concluded.

Article 5

Article 5 asks voters to consider a $47 million bond for municipal infrastructure (water and road) to be paid for through tax increment financing (TIF).

The select board has held two public hearings on this article, plus an additional hearing on the workforce housing plan off Nanak Way (which is contingent on municipal water). 

“I sincerely hope, at this point, that everyone has a very good idea of what TIF is and sees the opportunity for us to use it as a financing tool to get necessary municipal infrastructure without having to use municipal taxes to pay for it all,” Haff said. 

While the town’s proposal to the state for a TIF district was predicated on municipal infrastructure (water and road) being necessary to spur the Six Peaks Village development; it’ll ultimately be that development that pays for most of the water and road infrastructure that’s crucial for the town.

It’s not just necessary for growth but also for sustainability, according to the town.

“Forget about the growth part,” Haff said. “We can’t even sustain our current businesses without clean water… and our schools need clean water and there are affected residents … we simply need clean water; and we can’t afford the project without TIF.”

The possibility to develop workforce housing is also predicated on a water system. Housing trusts have three requirement before they’ll consider a site qualified for workforce housing: a suitable building site, sewer, and water, according to Mary Cohen of the Housing Trust of Rutland County. 

“We have identified a piece of land suitable for this project [70 acres off Nanak Way] and it is accessible by existing municipal sewer,” Haff said. “Now we just need Article 5 to pass in order to get municipal water.”

“The Killington Select Board deesn’t want to be like other ski resorts where workers have to live multiple towns away and commute to work,” Haff added.

Summary: What’s the impact on taxes

If all three articles pass on Town Meeting Day, the municipal tax rate will remain about even compared to the current rate due to revenues offsetting additional costs.

The $47 million TIF bond (Article 5) does not affect the municipal tax rate as the bond payments will be covered over time by the increased tax increment of the Village property as guaranteed by Great Gulf in the development agreement.

“Even if Great Gulf or Powdr was to walk away or sell, the agreement follows the land which will retain its value,” Haff explained, calling the development agreement “bullet proof.” 

“Long story short, municipal taxes will remain flat even with the purchase of the post office building and TIF is not going to affect your taxes and it’s going to vastly improve our municipal infrastructure,” Haff summarized. “Down the road, when more housing is built, it will further increase the grand list and that has the potential to actually decrease future municipal tax rates.”

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