The Town of Bennington - the South Shire seat of Bennington County, chartered in 1749 as Vermont’s first town - is the core commercial, industrial, services and population center of Vermont’s southwestern county. Bennington is home to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, five institutions of higher education, including Bennington College, Southern Vermont College, and the Community College of Vermont, and the Mt. Anthony Union High School and Middle School of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, and the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center. Bennington is within the regional sphere of the million plus population centers of western Massachusetts and the Capital District of New York. Despite these attributes, Bennington has experienced an extended period of stagnant population, low wages, poverty, and an economy which lags behind the economic growth of Vermont’s counties to the north.
Fortunately, Bennington has not ignored the challenges of its economy. The Bennington Downtown Area-Wide Plan (2016), the Bennington Town Plan (2015), the Downtown Market Analysis for Downtown Bennington (2006), the Land Use and Circulation Analysis and Master Plan for Bennington Downtown (2006), the Strategic Economic Development Plan (2013), Vermont Growth Center Designation (2008), and Vermont Designated Downtown status (2000), have all served to identify pathways toward economic development. The result has been concerted efforts in workforce development, poverty eradication and the identification and marketing of economic development opportunities.
The Town identified TIF as a possible tool to catalyze projects back in 2014. Since that time, they have discussed TIF at several Select Board meetings, held two public forums, held a formal public hearing, and have actively engaged with stakeholders.
Bennington’s TIF District encompasses the Downtown Improvement District (a State designation focused on the most densely developed part of the historic commercial center of Town), it encompasses most of the State Designated Downtown, and is entirely within the State Designated Growth Center and encompasses the cultural, commercial, and civic center of Town. The TIF District is surrounded by historic residential neighborhoods. Like most larger towns in Vermont, Bennington also has a commercial strip and industrial parks located outside of its downtown.
Bennington’s TIF District Plan includes Infrastructure projects totaling approximately $7.045 million (including soft costs, contingency, and a 3% inflation value). Bennington estimates that the increase in the grand list due to the projected private sector developments will generate $9.474 million in incremental property tax revenues during the 20-year retention period ($3.8 million municipal and $5.6 million education). The municipality has pledged 100% of the municipal increment to the TIF District debt and VEPC approved the education increment of 70%. As of the end of fiscal year 2019, Bennington had not incurred the first instance of TIF District debt and is not retaining increment.
As of June 30, 2019:
Cumulative Public Investment: $156,088
Total Increase in Taxable Value: $0