MONTPELIER — The City Council plans to decide Jan. 24 whether to put a new tax on the March ballot that would provide additional funding to Montpelier Alive.
The new funding stream would help with streetscape improvements downtown and expand Montpelier Alive’s marketing with regional print and radio advertising, extending the organization’s marketing to the Montreal area.
“We’re asking you to actually create a taxing authority to raise the money,” Montpelier Alive board member Sarah Jarvis said at Wednesday’s council meeting, when the downtown promotion organization first presented the proposal to the council.
Montpelier Alive pressed the council to decide that night whether to endorse the new tax for the March ballot. But the measure was tabled, with Mayor John Hollar citing council member Tom Golonka’s absence as a major hold-up. The mayor said the whole council should weigh in.
Jarvis expressed concern that if the council didn’t vote that night, the organization wouldn’t have time to obtain the nearly 700 signatures needed to put the question to voters in March if the council refused to add it to the ballot.
Hollar warned the nonprofit not to bypass the council with a petition drive. He said the measure should be policy-driven, having the support of the council.
But Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center owner Fred Bashara said the group should gather the necessary signatures, which the council required for Kellogg-Hubbard Library and Green Mountain Transit Agency.
Alan Weiss was the only council member to say he opposed the tax. Hollar suggested he’s receptive to the idea but said he would need the entire council to weigh in.
Montpelier Alive would oversee the $75,000 generated by a 4.5-cent increase in the tax rate on certain downtown commercial properties.
Jesse Jacobs of Montpelier Property Management spoke at the meeting, characterizing an implementation of a tax with so many uncertainties as irresponsible. He said he supports improving the downtown but that he could see waiting a year on the measure so more information could be available. The Jacobs family is the biggest landowner in the downtown area.
Others suggested more information is needed about how accountability would be assured and advertising dollars would be tracked to show their effectiveness.
Montpelier Alive does not plan to gather signatures for a petition, Jarvis said Thursday.
Hollar said of the proposal: “This is not a huge amount of money, but I think it has the potential to really make a difference.”
He also said the council didn’t necessarily need to have all the details in place to make a decision.
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