Brandon struggles with budget after no vote
BRANDON — The saying “You’ve can’t please all of the people all of the time” never had more meaning then it does in Brandon right now.
Since the April 30 defeat of the municipal budget on a re-vote by a 2-1 margin, the selectboard here is tasked with cutting spending to lower an anticipated tax increase to something voters can live with. Much of the talk at an information meeting prior to the re-vote last week focused on cutting, not expanding, the Recreation Department to a full-time director for $85,000. Selectboard Chair Devon Fuller was reached for comment after the vote and said that cutting the recreation department seemed to be what the voters want and what he would recommend.
Cut to Monday night’s special selectboard meeting to discuss the budget and a host of people imploring the board to keep the recreation department, plus a petition to that end with over 200 signatures so far.
In an effort to be inclusive, Fuller opened the meeting with a half hour for public comment on the budget, which lasted an hour. Lynn DuMoulin, who led the group that gathered petitions to trigger the re-vote, agreed that she would vote for a new budget that lowered taxes, even if the recreation department was still part of the town’s spending plan. DuMoulin added, however, that ultimately she and many others who voted against the budget would like to see a self-sustaining recreation department.
“This department does not need to be funded by the taxpayers,” she said.
But Selectman Dave Atherton asserted that, like any start-up, the recreation department needs time to develop before it can be self-sustaining. He also read a letter from resident and lister Maria Ammatuna, who said that since the closure of the Neshobe Sportsman Club, there is a void the recreation department could fill.
Lance Laraway is a volunteer and coach with the recreation department. He suggested that the department start selling concessions at games to bring in more revenue and provide a service to parents.
“I’m sure we could get local stores to donate bottled water, juice boxes, hamburgers and hotdogs,” he said. Parents are packing all these snacks themselves to bring to games, and they don’t want to.”
Laraway added that the ball fields in Proctor are completely self-sufficient and funded through an active concession stand. He also suggested doing bottle drives, and securing larger, well-funded sponsors for recreation teams.
“There’s so much community here, whatever we need to do, we can get things done,” he said. “There are so many ways we could generate revenue, we’re just not reaching out, but without a recreation director, we can’t do any of this.”
Laraway’s comments were met with applause from those in attendance.
Wayne Rausenburger suggested looking into establishing low salt and low sand areas on some roads in the winter to save on sand and sand use and save money. Others said that would compromise the safety of motorists.
Rausenburger also suggested putting off improving sidewalks for a year, which would save some money out of the $35,000 allotted in the budget for sidewalks. But Brian Fillioe said that cost for materials only goes up, and he’d hate to see the town pay more down the road by delaying sidewalk improvement now.
Another gentleman said that more emphasis should be put on increasing the tax base in town rather than figuring out what to cut from the budget.
“Why can’t we get clean industry here,” he asked. “Art galleries are not enough. We’re not Woodstock.”
Fuller argued that a number of efforts have been made by the town to attract industry here, including a biomass plant, which hasn’t panned out. He also said that improved broadband Internet service would help attract more Internet-based business Brandon, something the state has been working on.
In the end, Fuller said he supports asking each department town to go through their budgets line by line to find possible cuts. He also supports looking at part-time employees that may be longer needed if full-time employees are being added.
“By eliminating something we may be able to afford something,” he said.
Fuller added that the board should also look at town-owned property as possible revenue sources, including the town forest, as well as properties up for tax sale.
In the end, Brandon resident Dick Kirby stood and said that felt that people who are receiving town services are getting their money’s worth.
“I would gladly pay my taxes because I can’t think of a better place to live than Vermont,” he said, putting yet another perspective on the subject. His comment was met with applause.
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.