BRATTLEBORO—Economic development topped all the lists as the Selectboard outlined its goals during a special meeting on July 22.
Board member Donna Macomber said she hopes the town develops a strategy for tapping into arts resources in the community. She also suggested the town build its identity as a talent magnet.
Board Clerk David Schoales said he liked Macomber’s suggestions. In his opinion, the town underutilizes the arts community.
Board Chair David Gartenstein and Vice-Chair Kate O’Connor agreed that Brattleboro needs a stronger economy. But, they said, the town also needs to better define its role to economic development before creating goals.
O’Connor said she felt that the board should sort through the tax downtown property owners pay as part of the Downtown Improvement District (DID).
Moving forward on the Police-Fire Facilities Upgrade Project, derailed by budget issues earlier in the year, also ranked high on members’ lists, although no one at the board meeting put forth a concrete plan for doing so.
Macomber suggested moving forward on the project in stages and with the project oversight committee.
Board members also expressed their strong interest in starting on next year’s budget. Macomber stressed the need to proactively build the fiscal year 2016 municipal budget. She called for developing a strategy for reducing property taxes.
Town Meeting Members approved the town budget in March. A month later, voters defeated the budget in a special referendum. Some cited rising property taxes and the cost of the Police-Fire Facilities Upgrade Project in voting against the budget.
Representative Town Meeting passed a revised budget in June.
Schoales said the board needed to ask how the town and its services can become sustainable. He wanted the town to move from a department- to a program-based budget.
The town should quantify the amount of services non-taxpaying nonprofits in Brattleboro consume, and bill them accordingly, said Schoales.
He added he wanted the board to dig deeper into the the perceived issues the town faces as a regional economic hub.
Macomber said near the end of her comments that she hoped the board could develop a way to check with its own accountability, continue communicating openly with the public, and increase its effectiveness.
Schoales wrapped his statements by touching on developing new systems of employee evaluations. The 360 model excites people, he said, but other comprehensive evaluation models exist.
Adding clauses to contracts that require local hiring was also on Schoales’ list.
Gartenstein agreed that the town should adopt a thorough employee evaluation process. As part of that process, he wanted to update the employee handbook.
A new state statute requires towns institute a “pay as you throw” trash disposal system by summer 2015, Gartenstein reminded fellow board members.
Board member John Allen said he didn’t want to diminish the goal-setting process but said he believed “goal setting is just a little effort in futility,” because of the ever-changing nature of town governance.
Allen also asked the big question: Who is considering running again?
Though town elections are eight months away, and minds can change, some board members answered that they were interested.
Allen, to fellow board members’ surprise, said that he is considering running for another term. Gartenstein echoed Allen in saying that he is considering another run.
Macomber, who expects to have to travel more for work next year, said that although she didn’t mind the question, she didn’t feel ready to answer it.