The Commons

Crunching the numbers

Department heads, Selectboard grapple with FY 2014 deficit

Originally published in The Commons issue #182 (Wednesday, December 12, 2012).

BRATTLEBORO—Selectboard and department heads met on Dec. 8 for what was slated as the final budget meeting before 2013.

After four hours, the board voted to table the budget until its Dec. 18 meeting.

Board members asked Town Manager Barbra Sondag to assemble additional information for the board on the capital plan and whether to use undesignated funds, or “surplus” money, to ease pressure on the budget.

Sondag said she had tried to assemble a budget that wouldn’t significantly decrease town services, but cautioned that further cuts to the budget could do just that.

Board and department heads picked through line items in the town’s general fund and capital five-year capital plan.

As of Dec. 8, the fiscal year 2014 general fund expenses totaled $15,232,074 after further cuts by board members and Sondag. This proposed total represented an increase over fiscal year 2013 expenses of $586,950.

According to a Dec. 8 memo from Sondag issued that morning, the impact on the tax levy stands at $570,370.

This levy is composed of three chunks of figures.

The first is an increase from recalculating the current tax rate with the addition to the Grand List of $90,000. According to Sondag, the $90,000 would “have no impact on the tax rate.”

The second is $325,000 from the first payment of the $14 million bond for the police and fire facility upgrade.

The final piece is $156,370 from other operating expenses.

Tense moments

The meeting’s atmosphere grew tense between board members in the meeting’s second half.

Board member Christopher Chapman said the board should approve the budget that Sondag had compiled, trusting that she had done due diligence.

Member Dora Bouboulis said she was happy with the general fund but felt that cuts should happen to the capital improvement plan.

She added that she would probably vote against the budget as long as the debt service for the police and fire station upgrades remained.

“The Town Manager did not take what we stated as fact [when revising the budget],” said Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray.

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