Brandon sets date for third vote its town budget

BRANDON — The Brandon selectboard has found a compromise on the next town budget offering, and set the next re-vote for June 24. This will be the third time this year Brandon voters have cast ballots on a municipal spending plan.
After a lengthy discussion at a regular meeting Tuesday night, members of the board unanimously approved sending the last failed spending amount of $3,218,670 back to the voters.
They also took out the proposed $70,000 increase from that budget proposal that they had approved two weeks ago and instead created three separate articles for voters to accept or reject.
Article 1 will ask voters to approve a FY 2014-2015 municipal spending plan of $3,218,670, with $2,613,995 to be raised by taxes.
Article 2 will ask voters to approve $20,000 specifically for matching grant funds the town may need if it wins grants that require a town match. It would stay in a reserve fund and could not be used for anything else.
Article 3 will ask voters to allocate $15,000 for emergency funds. There are currently no emergency, contingency or surplus funds available to the town. It would stay in a reserve fund and could not be used for anything else.
Article 4 will ask voters to approve an additional $25,000 for the Capital Improvement Fund, which would augment the $48,000 fund created in the regular budget. It would be used to repair and replace aging vehicle and heavy equipment owned by the town police and public works departments.
The Brandon selectboard also discussed the very real danger of the town operating at a budget deficit by the June 30 end of the current fiscal year. Town Manager Robin Bennett told the board it’s going to be close.
“We certainly have the potential for deficit,” Bennett said. “We’re doing everything in our power to break even.”
Board Chair Maria Ammatuna wanted Bennett’s assurance that the board would know sooner rather than later if a deficit were to happen, but Bennett replied that the town won’t really know until the audit of the fiscal year 2013-14 is completed next fall.
That said, Selectman Dave Atherton asked Bennett if the proposed budget up for another re-vote would keep the town in the black.
“Will this pull us through, or will we have another deficit next year?” he asked.
Bennett said that if the proposed budget passes, the town would be on its way to solvency.
“This gives you solid operating expenditures,” she said.
The deficit issue ties into what many board members and residents have been saying, that many people voted “no” on the last spending proposal because it was too low.
Brandon residents defeated the proposed town spending plan of $3,276,095 on Town Meeting Day ballot by a tally of 817-399. The selectboard put forward a second proposal of $3,218,670 to voters on May 6. This plan called for $2,613,995 to be raised by taxes, which represented a 12.2 percent tax increase. It too was defeated, this time 498-318.
Another issue was brought to light regarding the state education tax, which was lowered after the last re-vote. Brandon resident Jack Fillioe noted that Gov. Peter Shumlin approved a 4-cent increase in the homestead (residential) property tax rate to 98 cents per $100 of assessed property value, and a 7.5-cent increase for non-residential (commercial/second homeowners) property tax rates ($1.515). That was a smaller increase than the 7-cent increase originally proposed.
The selectboard at its last budget information meeting calculated what a Brandon taxpayer’s taxes would be based on the 7-cent residential education tax increase. The amount included water, education property tax and local property tax and came to an annual amount of $183 per $100,000 of property value. By calculating the new education tax of 4 cents, Fillioe said his initial calculations bring the tax on $100,000 property value down to a total of $138. That’s based on the last failed budget that the board on Tuesday approved for re-vote on June 24.
The next budget information meeting will be held on Monday, June 23, at the Neshobe School at 7 p.m.
The re-vote will be held on Tuesday, June 24, at the Neshobe School. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.

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