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Town Meeting Preview 2015: Brandon

BRANDON — After townspeople voted on municipal budget proposals five times in 2014, Brandon town leaders are hoping that they will gain residents’ support for the proposed fiscal year 2016 town budget in just one go around — on Town Meeting Day.
The Brandon selectboard warned a “no-frills” budget that represents a 2 percent, or $47,000, increase in the amount to be raised by taxes. It will require a 1.48-cent increase in the town tax rate (about 1.7 percent) if approved by voters. The proposed $2,906,075 spending plan calls for $2,425,370 to be raised by taxes. Officials are comparing the “to-be-raised-by-taxes” number because the town library and senior center expenses this year will now be voted on separately as appropriations.
The most notable highlight is what is not in the General Fund budget. Many voters will be happy to hear that the board will ask them to vote separately for individual, much-needed road improvement projects, including overlay work on Champlain Street ($18,300) and Marble Street ($24,500); a 25 percent match (roughly $68,500) for the FEMA-funded overflow project in the downtown; and $20,000 for sidewalk repair.
Also, the budget restores the public works director to a full-time position and includes a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase for all town employees.
Voters will get a chance to say yea or nay on an $85,500 appropriation to the Brandon Free Public Library; $20,735 to the Brandon Area Rescue Squad; and $13,500 to the senior center.
Some of the town officers who prepared that budget may not be around to see it implemented; Brandon has several races for selectboard seats.
Incumbent Seth Hopkins looks to keep the seat he was appointed to in January to replace Maria Ammatuna, who resigned. He faces former Selectman Richard Baker for a two-year term. Selectman Doug Bailey, who was appointed last October to replace Blaine Cliver, will stand with fellow Selectman Ethan Swift and newcomer Dennis Reisenweaver in a three-way race for two one-year seats on the selectboard.
Selectman Dave Atherton is unopposed for a three-year term on the selectboard.
Brandon residents will also cast ballots on the proposed elementary school and high school spending plans. The 2015-2016 Neshobe Elementary School spending plan is $5,467,111, which represents an increase of $145,441, or 2.7 percent, over the current year’s budget. Under the budget proposal the per pupil spending for next year would fall by around $50. If approved, the Neshobe part of the Brandon property tax would rise 2 cents from 71.05 cents to 73.42 cents.
The proposed Otter Valley Union High School spending plan for 2015-2016 is $10,718,131, a $192,414 increase over the current spending plan. But despite what amounts to one of the lowest budget increases at OV over the last decade, the effect on the local homestead tax rate will result in a tax rate increase of roughly 7 or 8 cents.

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