Brandon schedules fourth vote on town budget

BRANDON — The Brandon selectboard has made more spending cuts and approved yet another town budget and yet another vote date — its fourth in four months.
Following a marathon public meeting that lasted more than three and half hours this past Monday night, the board OK’d a $3,147,634 spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1, with $2,331,134 to be raised by property taxes. That spending number represents an increase of 3.7 percent, or $84,084, from the budget for the year just ended.
If approved, the budget would result in a tax rate of 71.27 cents per $100 of property value, an increase of 2.49 cents over the current rate of 68.78 cents. That’s a 3.6 percent increase in the tax municipal tax rate.
An information meeting will be held at the Neshobe School on next Monday, July 8, at 7 p.m., with the budget vote by Australian ballot on Tuesday, July 9, at the school. Polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
The saga of Brandon’s town budget began on Town Meeting Day in March when a heftier town budget proposal that sported a 10.3 percent increase in spending passed, 428-420. That budget would have resulted in a 7-cent hike in the tax rate.
Then a petition for a re-vote was mounted, and voters on April 30 soundly defeated the budget, 672-390.
The selectboard cut a proposed town spending increase from $233,000 to $138,000 for a total increase of 6.17 percent. If passed, that budget would have resulted in a proposed tax rate of 73.26 cents. But it was rejected by voters on June 18 by a 371-326 margin.
Judging from the comments of several taxpayers at this past Monday’s meeting, it’s not about the money. As a fourth town budget vote looms, for some it comes down to principle. Voters in Brandon who don’t want a full-time recreation department will vote against any budget that includes that line item, it seems, regardless of how small the overall budget and tax increase will be. And also regardless of the fact that the recreation department line item accounts for roughly 2.5 percent of the total spending. Currently, the program serves 760 adults and children with 20 recreation offerings.
At a warned budget meeting on Friday, June 21, at the Stephen Douglas House, the selectboard spent two hours discussing and cutting miscellaneous items throughout the budget for an additional $54,500 in spending reductions, including cutting:
•Contractor services from $18,000 to $10,000.
•Road resurfacing from $45,000 to $40,000.
•Guardrail repair from $2,000 to $1,000.
•Street sweeping by $3,500.
•Streetlights by $8,000.
•$8,000 in Public Works overtime.
•$1,000 in police office equipment.
•Municipal mowing from $10,000 to $8,800.
•Buildings and Grounds part-time funds by $4,000.
•Green Up Day funding from $2,300 to $1,000.
“We nitpicked,” selectboard Chair Devon Fuller said. “But the most important thing for people to know is, this is it. Unless we want to shut the town down, this is as low as we can go.”
The board had originally budgeted $44,850 for the full-time recreation director position, and roughly $20,000 increase from the current year. Fuller said he believed that because it was a management position, it was not a union job and therefore the salary could be scaled back. The board then agreed to reduce the salary for the proposed full-time recreation direction by $7,850, to $37,000.
But at the June 24 meeting, Town Administrative Assistant Anna Scheck said her research shows the municipal union AFSCME dictates that the recreation director position is, in fact, a union position and the salary for a full-time recreation director must be at least $40,000.
Fuller is hoping that the street sweeping line item cut can be rectified if the budget passes and a new loader is purchased.
The board has also kept the addition of a fourth full-time Public Works employee, another item that some taxpayers think is unnecessary. However, the board maintains that the position is needed to better care for area roads and culverts year-round and in a more timely manner.
One of the main complaints from taxpayers is that they have not gotten clear answers to their budget questions, many of which were answered at the June 24 meeting. At the request of Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janet Mondlak, the selectboard agreed to do a mass mailing of a comprehensive information sheet that will outline and explain all the cuts and answer taxpayer questions that have come up. Interim Town Manager Richard Baker said he hoped to have the mailing out by the end of last week.
Newest board member Maria Ammatuna, who has a background in finance, has been working closely with Selectman Blaine Clever in going through the budget over the last several weeks.
“We have gone through every single line item of this budget,” she said. “We’ve already made structural changes and gotten rid of a lot of dead wood.”

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: