Declining balance can be spent in town this spring with ‘Middlebury Money’

By Lily Jones

Sarah Fagan

Starting this spring, students can exchange their $25 declining balance for “Middlebury Money,” a community currency accepted at almost all businesses in Middlebury. Students will have the option to receive a traditional declining balance on their student IDs for on-campus purchases or receive a $25 check that they can spend both in town and at many on-campus locations.

Co-authored by Directors of External Affairs Henry Ganey ’22 and Daniel Gutierrez ’23 and Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President Roni Lezama ’22, the bill was passed on Sunday, Oct 4.

Middlebury Money is withdrawn from a bank account at National Bank of Middlebury that is owned by the Better Middlebury Partnership in an effort to keep dollars within the local economy, according to Experience Middlebury, which oversees the program.

The bill serves dual purposes. “It will increase accessibility for students to experience off-campus life by removing financial barriers and will also help stimulate the local economy in light of recent events — the pandemic and the closure of main street [for construction],” Gutierrez said.

Middlebury_Money_Accepting_Merchants

The spring will function as a pilot period for the program, though students must opt in if they want to participate. “We don’t want to force students into it, and we want to get genuine feedback,” Gutierrez said.

The SGA will send out a Google form before the spring term in which students will select their preference. Students who opt in will receive a check in their mailbox, a special kind of payment method that they can spend only at Middlebury businesses — including those at the college, such as Midd Xpress and the college bookstore.

Gutierrez and Ganey are also working with Treasurer David Provost to potentially increase the amount of declining balances.

“Because of the budget freeze, it would be hard to get an increase this semester or next, but it looks like there is a good chance it will happen in the future,” Gutierrez said. He said he was aiming for an increase by fall 2021 for a total amount of $50 but that it all depends on the college’s budget.

Gutierrez also hopes to add Middlebury to a consortium of Vermont colleges that allow students to spend allocated money at any retail location in Vermont.

Students are excited about the new flexibility of the declining balance. “It not only allows us to support local businesses but it also gives students who were previously discouraged from going to town due to financial barriers an opportunity to do so,” Isabella Peixoto ’23 said. “I will definitely be spending it at Taste of India or Vermont’s Own.”