State to aid cash-strapped towns

MONTPELIER – The town of Halifax has 300 to 400 year-round residents. Its annual budget is $800,000. And the small southern Vermont hamlet is facing an estimated $7 million in infrastructure repairs as a result of Tropical Storm Irene.

For Halifax – and numerous other towns in a similar situation – the massive effort to rebuild roads has strained municipal coffers as federal aid is slow to come from Washington, D.C.

But top officials in state government on Tuesday outlined steps they are taking to ease the cash-flow problems that have arisen for some hard-hit towns as a result of the rebuilding effort.

The state plans to disburse $6.4 million in road funds and $125 million in education money earlier than it normally would. Flood-damaged towns that are required to send education money to the state by a Dec. 1 deadline also will not penalized.

The new deadline for education fund payments to the state is Feb. 28 for towns that suffered extensive damage.