Do you know about the OPEN HOUSE at the Capital City Grange Hall on Rte 12 in Berlin this Saturday, May 7 3-6 pm? There will be DISPLAYS about on-going activities at the Hall (clothing exchange + bulk buyers club + outdoor fun, etc), plus DEMONSTRATIONS by some of the entertaining regular renters (traditional music + a quick drum lesson + barbershop quartet, etc). Also PIZZA SAMPLES for the kiddies, a SING-ALONG and a POTLUCK at 5 pm. A “taste of the Grange,” literally & figuratively, with something for everyone. And it is FREE!
On the 2nd Saturday of each month, from 9:30 to 11:30, the basement of the Capital City Grange is host to a clothing-share event for kids from infant to size 10. Organizer Erin Barry and volunteers lay out clothes on the tables and families can donate their clean, un-ripped, but too-small clothes, and pick up new ones that fit the growing kids better. And there is a table with toys and books, and other kids to play with! Sometimes there is running around on the dance floor upstairs. Here are a few pictures to show you what it looks like! Cost is just $3 per family, to cover operating costs–this is an all-volunteer event!
We’re Back…to our regular schedule for Grange meetings on the first Saturday of the month. Join us at 4:30 for our monthly consideration of all Grange business–legislative, agricultural and health concerns…and taxes! More on that below.
At 5:45, we’ll take off our sashes, put away the Grange paraphernalia and rearrange the chairs, so we can listen to our “Program”:
What: Recycling 101
Who: Cassandra Hemenway, Zero Waste Outreach Coordinator of the CVWSMD
How much: Free!–and open to everyoneThis presentation will explain the new mandatory recycling being required for all Vermont waste generators–which includes all of us as individuals as well as the Grange Hall. It will also be an opportunity ask questions about what to do about composting, recycling specifics, and more. Do you know what the “Statewide Six” are? Cassandra will take on all your questions.Followed at 6:30 by the equally free (as well as being famous and fabulous) Grange Potluck Dinner. Make something tasty with the bounty of the harvest season, and get to know the rest of the Grange members and friends who show up to share good food and good conversation.
Property Taxes and our chances for reductions
As predicted, we spent a fair amount of time at our September meeting talking about taxes–specifically the $7,159 we are paying this year to the Town of Berlin. This is about 1/3 of our annual budget! And as we discovered when volunteers did a survey of the Granges in the state of Vermont, we seem to be the only Grange Hall which is taxed at the full local tax rate in the whole state. All of the others, we found, get at least a 50% tax break.
At our meeting, we talked about the best way to demonstrate our value to the town, and to convince the Town that we too deserve a break on our taxes. We’ve been talking with the Town Selectboard, and have proposed expanding our role as a de facto Community Hall for the town, by donating a couple of rentals per month to Town uses. We’ve found out that we would need to be on the Town Meeting’s Australian ballot to get a reduction–this is because this action would mean a (small) increase in the taxes on other property taxpayers. Our tax payments represent about 3/10 of 1% of the total taxes paid by the taxpayers of Berlin.
In order to get on the ballot, we will need to get about 120 signatures on petitions, by January of 2016. In order to get our taxes reduced, we would need to get a majority of votes on the Australian ballot voting on the first Tuesday of March.
So the question is–how to get the word out that we are worth this small subsidy? How to convince people to vote to give us this break–which will make a huge difference in our ability to survive and thrive as a community service organization with a wonderful Hall?
We didn’t come to a final decision; we voted to give our Executive Committee the authority to craft a resolution to put on the agenda of the Berlin Town Meeting in March, and to decide how to best promote it. Merry Shernock has been working with Selectboard member Jeremy Hansen to come up with ways to be more involved in Berlin, and she has been leading the struggle to figure out the best strategies for tax relief. Our meeting talked about the potential for this struggle to take more than one year, as we spread the word and get more recognized as part of the community.
A great help for the Grange would be more contacts in the Town of Berlin. Do you live there? Do you know other Grange users who do? Contact Merry using the phone number and email you’ll find a the top of these Notes.
I’m sure we will be talking more about this question–join us for these important discussions at the meeting, or on the Grange Facebook page–don’t forget to “Like” the Grange there to get all the news as it happens!
Tim Swartz, President