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Elwell outlines budgeting and programming vision for Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO—Town Manager Peter Elwell outlined plans for evaluating town spending and creating a multi-year financial plan during Monday’s pre-Annual Representative Town Meeting informational session.

The purpose of the process, he told Town Meeting members, is to ensure that by the fall, the town can make budget decisions within a context of understanding both the services it offers and the long-term financial health of Brattleboro.

Saving money by cutting services, staff, or programs is not the goal, he said.

The goal is to find the best way to provide the community with services and to improve the town’s long-term financial health, said Elwell, who told Town Meeting Members that the process will roll out in three phases.

• Phase one: The town will get the lay of the land by breaking down line items by programs, services, or activities that the money supports rather than by the departments where the money is allocated.

• Phase two: From April to midsummer, Elwell and his colleagues plan to complete a comprehensive review of department operations and every aspect of how they serve the community.

The goal here, said Elwell, is to find any efficiencies or the “most intelligent manner” for offering services.

When one meeting member asked if the board should increase the Public Works Department’s overtime budget for snow removal in light of multiple hard winters, Elwell said, “We will literally be looking at hundreds of those kinds of questions.”

• Phase three: From summer into the fall budgeting season, the goal “is to create a long-term financial plan” for the town, said Elwell, to give the Selectboard and departments the ability to “forecast from a baseline of where we are to one prepared for next year and five years out.”

“This is a very aggressive schedule,” added Elwell. “We need to move quickly on this.”

Elwell noted that public outreach and presentations will happen at each phase.

“We want the engagement as we move through that process,” he said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #297 (Wednesday, March 18, 2015). This story appeared on page A3.

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