Brattleboro Selectboard Chair Ian Goodnow speaks while Town Manager John Potter, center, and Selectboard member Daniel Quipp, right, listen.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Brattleboro Selectboard Chair Ian Goodnow speaks while Town Manager John Potter, center, and Selectboard member Daniel Quipp, right, listen.

Brattleboro Town Meeting will consider $22.9M budget

Members will decide bond for backup Pleasant Valley water tank; only users will repay the debt

Representative Town Meeting here will convene on Saturday, March 23, at 8:30 a.m., in the Brattleboro Union High School gymnasium.

If members do not finish the warrant, the meeting will recess at 5 p.m. and continue on Sunday, March 24, at 8:30 a.m.

In anticipation of the RTM, the Selectboard hosted an informational meeting on March 13.

"This is not the meeting to get into substantive debate on any of the articles," warned Selectboard Chair Ian Goodnow, who several times told RTM members to save their points of opinion or advocacy for the March 23 meeting.

Goodnow also explained that two articles historically on the warning - those requesting financial support for the Southeast Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) and the community marketing initiative for the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance (DBA) - do not appear on this year's.

That's because the board, knowing financial support for both will be coming out of the revolving loan fund, decided that neither needed voter approval.

Substantive articles to be considered by voters, as well as the board's explanations (where offered), are as follows.

Water storage tank bond issue

Members will be asked to approve a loan to build a secondary Pleasant Valley water storage tank at an estimated cost of $1.62 million, and with an interest rate not to exceed 3% for up to 10 years.

This is a bond article that state law requires be voted on by Australian ballot. Only users will pay the debt.

The primary 3-million-gallon water storage tank, at Pleasant Valley reservoir next to the treatment facility, provides water at high-demand times. That tank serves all of West Brattleboro and the downtown area.

A recent inspection by scuba divers identified needed maintenance, which would require draining the tank and taking it offline. This is typically done with the aid of a temporary storage tank, but that requires costly site preparation. Town officials looked into alternatives and found that a more cost-effective solution would be to install a secondary permanent water tank.

Thus, this article proposes a 400,000-gallon tank to be installed next to the existing, larger one.

The loan would be at 0% interest, and the town has up to 40 years to repay the bond.

Financial approvals

Members will be asked to spend $131,698.86 through special assessments on properties within the Mountain Home Park Special Benefit Assessment Tax District.

Basically, Goodnow said, the town is a "pass through" for a loan taken out by Mountain Home for water and sewer work in 2007, adding that the loan payment was restructured subsequently and the payment lowered.

Members will be asked to spend $80,000 through special assessments on properties within the Downtown Improvement District, for capital and operating costs of projects of the town's duly designated downtown organization, as reflected in its work plan and budget.

This annually recurring article asks approval to raise the money through a special tax on properties throughout the Downtown Improvement District to fund the work of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, the town's designated downtown organization.

Members will also be asked to spend $367,810 to support 36 human service programs and facilities for residents:

AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, $2,000; American Red Cross - New Hampshire and Vermont Region, $3,750; Big Brothers Big Sisters, $7,500; Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, $10,000; Boys and Girls Club, $17,000; Brattleboro Area Hospice, $7,400; Brattleboro Centre for Children, $5,400; Brattleboro Housing Partnership/Tri-Park, $12,000; Brattleboro Senior Meals, $10,000; Building a Positive Community (BAPC), $4,000.

Also, Family Garden, $2,500; Food Connects, $10,000; Gathering Place, $5,000; Green Mountain RSVP, $1,000; Groundworks Collaborative, $20,000; Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), $10,000; Meeting Waters YMCA, $10,000; Out in the Open, $16,500; Putney Foodshelf, $4,260; Rich Earth Institute, $1,500; Senior Solutions, $6,000; Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), $13,300; Southeast Vermont Transit (MooVER), $24,000.

Also, The Root Social Justice Center, $25,000; Theatre Adventure Jnc., $3,000; Turning Point, $25,000; Vermont Adult Learning, $2,400; Vermont Association for the Blind, $700; Vermont Center for Independent Living, $1,600; Vermont Family Network, $2,500.

Also, Windham County Dental Center, $15,000; Windham County Humane Society, $2,000; Windham County Safe Place Child Advocacy Center, $15,000; Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, $10,000; Winston Prouty Center, $15,000; Women's Freedom Center, $17,500; WSESU Summer Food Program, $10,000; and Youth Services, $20,000.

Members will also decide what to pay Selectboard members. Currently, the chair receives $10,000 annually and board members each receive $8,000.

Members will also be asked to transfer $268,862 from the Unassigned General Fund balance for street paving and capital road improvement projects (non-operating capital costs).

Town seeks 4.3% budget increase

Members will consider the proposed $22,993,830 fiscal year 2025 operating budget - an increase of $955,153, or 4.3%, over the current fiscal year's operating budget.

"The board believes this is a favorable budget for RTM to consider and allows for expansion or continuance of all services and to enact a full municipal mode for EMS and addresses a vulnerability in the IT area and capital needs plus," Goodnow said.

Staffing accounts for 44.5% of the total budget, and when employee benefits are added in, that rises to 61.2%.

"The town employs people, and those people provide services, and those services are what creates municipal government," said Goodnow.

The proposed budget reflects a 13.1% jump in salaries, or $1,185,322. That includes a Selectboard-approved 4% cost-of-living increase and all increases negotiated as collective bargaining agreements.

Part of the increase relates to the board's decision to turn to a municipal delivery plan for emergency medical services, thereby expanding the fire department to include six more firefighters and an EMS director and creating most of the 38.5% increase in that department.

Revenue from the new EMS program is anticipated at $837,522, for a total of $921,017 budgeted.

Other parts of the increase include hiring an outreach program specialist for the library, changing the town clerk's job to full-time, and adding an IT manager to the administrator's office. In addition, benefits increased by 1.3%, or $48,511.

Policing costs are up 23.5%, mostly for special equipment of various types.

Town clerk expenses increase by 7.5% in the proposed budget, most due to election-related costs.

Other increases will be seen in human services and general services (computer and software expenses), and the municipal center (old building maintenance), while some reductions can be seen in health insurance expenses as well as auxiliary services since there is no outside ambulance contract included.

The proposed budget takes into account increases in the property tax, as well as increased revenues from the 1% local-option rooms tax and the 1% local-option sales tax.

The 2024 report of the Representative Town Meeting Finance Committee, as well as all articles and attendant reports for this year's meeting and a video of this information session, can be found at

Registered Brattleboro voters may attend and voice their opinions, but only Town Meeting members may vote.

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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