Brandon to revote municipal budget

BRANDON — There will be a re-vote on Brandon’s municipal budget next month.
Organizers turned in petitions containing more than the required 564 signatures to Brandon Town Clerk Bill Dick on Monday, which amounts to at least 20 percent of the electorate as required by state statute.
On Monday night, the selectboard approved a motion to warn a re-vote election for Tuesday, April 30, pending availability of the Neshobe School polling place.
Brandon voters approved the $3,292,280 municipal spending plan on Town Meeting Day by a vote of 428-420. Roughly $2,480,000 of that budget was to be raised by taxes. The budget represented an increase in spending of 10.3 percent, or $240,000, over the current year.
The budget includes an additional full-time position in the Public Works Department, which increases Public Works salaries by $31,925. The board also approved elevating the half-time recreation director position to full-time at an additional cost of $24,450. The third big-ticket item is a new loader for the Public Works Department. The machine will cost $160,000, and will be purchased though a municipal lease spread over five years.
The selectboard has defended the budget, save for Selectman Richard Baker, who declined to vote either way for the spending plan. Selectboard Chair Devon Fuller said the town has close to level-funded the budget for so many years that it’s time to start putting money back into the town for maintenance, the public works employee and the loader. He also argued that having a full-time recreation director would strengthen the Recreation Department to where it can generate its own programming revenue and grow.
But many of the people behind the re-vote initiative are on fixed incomes and say that the 10-plus percent increase is too much on top of the tax increases that will come with approved local school budgets.
If voters fail to approve the Brandon municipal budget in the re-vote, the selectboard will have to make adjustments in the spending plan, then send the budget back to residents for another vote. Town officials hope that a budget will be approved well before June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Some Vermont towns take a harder line on re-votes. In Springfield, for instance, a re-vote can only be taken on the municipal budget if it was approved on Town Meeting Day with a turnout of less than 15 percent of registered voters. In Brandon, 30 percent of the town’s 2,820 registered voters went to the polls. 

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