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Capital City Grange Meeting at 4:30 PM–no program, but lots to discuss!
October 2, 2021 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Join us at 4:30 PM, for a Grange meeting to plan our campaign for full Berlin property tax exemption
We’ll be meeting, in person as well as via Zoom, at the Grange Hall and also on your computer or other device. We will get together to check in on Grange rentals, finances and plans for the future, without the ritual, sashes and full agenda. Usually, even numbered months feature an hour-long program following a brief Grange meeting; a variety of factors led us to change this month
Those of us who meet in the Hall will be spread out, and we will have the exhaust fan on and some windows open to ensure good ventilation. We ask that any non-vaccinated attendees wear masks. Those who are vaccinated may also choose to wear masks, of course! The public is invited to attend–no passwords needed! Only Grange members will be allowed to vote on decisions, but we are interested in input from the whole community of Grange member and friends!
Please follow this link to join us:
Background on the tax exemption question:
In 2016, the Berlin Town Meeting responded positively to our request for full exemption from Berlin property taxes, which were costing close to $7,000 annually–a huge chunk from our annual revenues of about $24,000. We explained the all-volunteer makeup of the Grange, the many uses of the Grange Hall for community and family events, and our desire to be more fully integrated into the Town as a resource for the residents, Town organizations and families. We further offered to provide “free rentals” of the Hall to Berlin residents and Berlin organizations (including Town-sponsored meetings), if we could be exempted from the large burden of property taxes. The meeting voted to give us an exemption for 5 years, which we much appreciated!
The exemption starting in 2016 gave us breathing room to focus on improvements in our Grange Hall, to catch up on deferred maintenance, and to expand our community services. Over the first 4 years, until March 2020, we saw Berlin “free rentals” increase to over the 2 per month which was our promise. Those uses included many family celebrations (dinners, weddings, birthday parties, baby showers and many more), plus meetings of the “Resident-Owned Co-op” governing Board of the Weston’s Mobile Home Park (just south of the Hall, on Rt. 12), plus meetings of a Berlin church, Berlin Farmers’ potluck dinners, and more.
Of course, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, all of that came to a sudden halt. Almost Hall rentals of all types were canceled, moved to the parking lot, or greatly restricted–and that has largely continued to the present. Some windows of low-infection rates have let some activities resume–but rental revenues plunged by 2/3 for the year from April 2020 to March 2021. Generous donations have helped us survive financially, along with great reductions in cleaning services, parking-lot plowing and other expenses.
During the “second surge” of COVID-19 in the winter of 2020, we were facing the end of the tax exemption period in 2021, and asked the Selectboard to put an “Article” on the Warning for the March 2021 Town meeting, asking for a renewal of the full tax exemption for another 5 years. They had told us that we would not need to get petitions signed to get this set up, given the public health conditions. To our surprise, the Selectboard edited our request to only cover exemption from Town property taxes, not including the Education portion, and only to cover exemption for one year. They told us that we could only reinstate our full-exemption request if we did get signatures after all. With only a week to go before the filing deadline, and infection rates high, we were not willing to risk the health of Grange members, so we reluctantly agreed to live with the limited exemption request, and to plan for a campaign for reinstatement of full exemption at the 2022 Town Meeting. We were of course very pleased when the Australian Ballot vote (which substituted for the 2021 Town Meeting) approved the limited request by about a 4 to 1 margin!
Now we need to get started on our campaign for the 2022 Town Meeting to vote us full exemption for another 5 years. At our Oct. 2 meeting, this will be one of the main topics. We will need to get petition signatures (over 100) to make sure our full request is on the ballot without editing, and we’ll need to campaign among Berlin voters to make sure they know that the Grange and the Hall are a real benefit to the Town of Berlin–both in direct services to Berlin residents like the “free rentals”, and in hosting the wide range of community functions that (in normal times) keep our Grange Hall jumping. Please join us to get our campaign up and running!
State Grange Resolutions
Our meeting will also be discussing how Tim and Carl (our delegates to the VT State Grange Annual Session) should vote on the 14 proposed “Resolutions” which will be discussed, possibly amended, and then voted on. Those that pass will become official policy of the VT State Grange to which we belong–joining many others. The list this year includes #11: Public Service Employees Allowed to Join a Labor Union Without Holding an Election, which was proposed by Carl and accepted at our June meeting. You can see this one, and all the proposed resolutions on the Grange website, at: http://capitalcitygrange.org/2021-VSG-resolutions/ There are lots of other interesting ideas in the list, dealing with everything from making permanent the policy of allowing Grange members to participate via Zoom or similar services, to supporting “sustainable agriculture”, to allowing nurses (RNs and LPN/VNs) to have multi-state licenses. Read them all, and let us know what you think!