Middlebury considering another use for local option tax

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard in March will ask voters, among other things, to apply $57,000 of the community’s local option tax surplus to the fiscal year 2019 capital improvements budget.
Middlebury residents back in 2008 voted 1,535 to 673 to authorize a 30-year, $16 million bond issue to fund the Cross Street Bridge project, the centerpiece of which is the span linking Main Street to Court Street over the Otter Creek. Middlebury College agreed to underwrite $9 million of those project costs, while the town elected to implement local option taxes of 1 percent on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol to fund the balance.
Town officials estimated the local option taxes would yield around $650,000 annually for the community’s share of debt service. Officials agreed at the time that the tax proceeds would be dedicated to Cross Street Bridge-related expenses, including repairs and maintenance.
But local option tax revenues are out-pacing debt service for the project. The local option tax surplus fund has grown to more than $1 million. Wanting to keep the fiscal year 2019 municipal tax rate as low as possible, the selectboard will ask voters on Town Meeting Day for permission to dip into the that surplus fund to the tune of $57,000 — the amount of the planned increase in the proposed capital improvements budget. This would keep that budget at essentially the same $948,418 spending level as this year.
Selectwoman Susan Shashok, chairwoman of the town’s Infrastructure Committee, said it seemed reasonable to ask that a surplus in bridge-related funding be used to help pay for other municipal infrastructure needs.
She added residents could, in future years, see similar requests to use surplus local option tax funds to pay for capital improvements in the community.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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