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Middlebury’s local option tax collection going strong

MIDDLEBURY — Middle-bury’s local option tax revenues continue to slightly out-pace the amount needed to meet debt service on the new Cross Street Bridge project, providing a harbinger, municipal officials said, of both a recovering economy and a future community debate on what should be done with any excess funds.
Middlebury Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo confirmed the town netted $170,869 in local option tax revenue during the second quarter of 2010, an amount that is $5,452 greater than the second quarter of 2009.
To date, the town has earned $36,000 more during the past three quarters (nine months) than it did during the same nine months of the prior fiscal year.
“This would indicate that things are picking up, and it is good news for the bridge project,” Colangelo said of the latest figures from the Vermont Department of Taxes, which collects and processes revenues from Middlebury’s 1-percent local option tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol.
Townspeople approved the local option taxes in 2008 as a means of covering the community’s annual share of $600,000 in debt service (over 30 years) for the $16 million Cross Street Bridge project. Middlebury College has agreed to cover an equal share of the debt load for the span, which is on schedule for an Oct. 30 grand opening.
Middlebury’s local option tax netted $641,741 during its first complete year of operation. That’s $41,741 ahead of what is needed to cover local debt service. And if the town matches last year’s revenue in the current third quarter, the total revenue for the second year of the tax will be $677,000. 
But Colangelo, pointing to recent trends, said, “it would be reasonable to predict the results for quarter three of 2010 will be better than they were in 2009.”
Middlebury officials will create a committee to recommend what to do with any surplus local option taxes the town collects beyond what is needed to pay off the project. But they will not establish such a panel until the massive undertaking is completed, given the potential for unanticipated glitches and cost overruns.
Local voters will have the final say in how any surplus local option tax revenues are used. And although a local committee could propose using the funds for a litany of local projects, Middlebury residents could simply demand that the surplus funds be used to stabilize property taxes.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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