Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting 2013 BCTV Live Stream

Tis over.

Comments | 32

  • Underway

    Things are underway, with new Moderator Lawrin Crispe at the helm.

    Feel free to make note of anything you find interesting.

  • Education Budget

    Michael Bosworth is reading the Finance Committee’s recommendations about the school budget.

    Limited resources and tough options, he says. Given the current situation, next year there may be personnel cuts or higher taxes.

    He says they should reject the school budget.

    Margaret Atkinson disagrees. Reducing the budget, and reduced staff, will have an impact on education, which will impact the town’s livability (and ability to attract business). Investments in schools improves local economy, she says.

    (School Board) David Schoales says they need to consider the poverty rate, and drop-out rate. Education combats poverty, he says. They are doing everything they can to keep costs down.

  • Spinoza's technology point being made now..

    Good point .. textbooks are somewhat a thing of the past

    • Bob Oeser posing another technology question...

      A pointed question received a rather vague answer, however.

      • Not vague

        Dishonest. Heartbreaking.

        • Ex post facto?

          Here is the letter sent to the Superintendant and School Baord, to which I received no reply.


          The Brattleboro Town School District Technology Integration Specialist position has been been defunded in next year’s budget, meaning there will be no computer support available for students or teachers.  

          This decision–however driven by economic pressures–is a shortsighted travesty, an academic blunder, and a bewildering step backwards. We are already in the adolescence of the twenty-first century (which frighteningly may be humanity’s last). Is it not crystal clear that technical proficiency is integral to the next generation’s ability to function, find work, and solve problems in the future?

          In the tech-world, things move fast, but the school-world struggles, and ambivalence towards technology is the norm. There’s a range of issues that deter integration, from time crunches to technophobia. And obviously teachers are tasked with some very formidable challenges, in realms behavioral as well as pedagogical. It understandable that having expectations of digital fluency is asking a lot on top of what they already do.

          However, schools don’t exist in exclusion from the larger world. The acceleration of technical opportunities and virtual environments are not optional conditions of our times. We can chose how we filter and process knowledge, what parts get embedded in our curricula, but the fact of technology’s prevalence is inescapable. We can not turn our back on that reality.

          Not least, Common Core standards require digital proficiency. Presently, online worlds like Read Naturally, and Google Docs are central to the school day. Knowing the overall scant technical prowess of teachers, administrators, and students in this district, it’s unconscionable, and freakishly Amish that this kind of learning and support is being stripped from the list of school’s priorities.  

          Cutting technology integration will be a major set-back. With everything in society speeding up, while our myriad problems loom dauntingly, schools can ill-afford to drop the ball. Our students must be given a chance to become adept in the many aspects of modern learning. They are more than the sum or average of their test scores.

          • What if...

            If the budget fails to pass, will there be further opportunity to make these points to the board?

            So much of what is learned in terms of this technology stretches far beyond the desktop or laptop.. everything today is oriented to computer technology; if I am wrong, please tell me why. Even my phone is a computer. So much of what I do day to day involves technology that I cannot imagine removing an ounce of it from any learning environment.

          • digits!

            Digital proficiency is a fallacy, Spinoza.
            Take it from an expert.

        • "enrichment"

          What does “enrichment program” mean?

          • It depends

            Lots of room for debate on defining “enrichment”

  • Schools, Tech, and Motion to Reduce School Budget By A Million

    Fagelson – We see costs going up and up. Throwing money at education doesn’t solve anything. 1/3 of kids do not graduate, and of those that do, 1/3 are functionally illiterate. Are we getting the bang for the buck?

    Stahley – Graduation rate is on par with state average – 80%. Small drop out rate. Kids get college credit in some classes. 47% are first generation college students.

    Fallion – I’ve heard familiar themes over the years. We have to begin to think of new ways and a new role for government. New Selectboard should look at structural problem of revenue in the budget. Big ticket items. Selling electrical credits is a creative income generating idea. I support the board of education in using renewable energy to address education and climate problems.

    Verzino – I see large increase in textbooks and a decrease in technology. Budgets represent our priorities. Textbooks are a thing of the past and technology is our future. This is the opposite of how we should be caring for children.

    Davis – Surplus in previous year of $250,000. Is there any kind of surplus in coming year in the High Scool budget, and what’s different with the town school district budget?

    Kane – We generally don’t use surpluses to reduce taxes. The High School budget is about twice that of the town school district. It has more employees take early retirement, more special ed. Hard to compare.

    Reed-Savory – Percent increase in the budget? Looks like spending is up around 10% when looking at money paid, including the bond. Our family’s income has been dropping for many years. As good as education is, we have to recognize people will have a hard time when budgets go up more than incomes.

    Oeser – Increase in textbooks and decrease of technology?

    Stahley – Increase are needed resources for literacy and math, and the “common core” transition. The reduction in technology…it was a position. We decided to reassign that funding to an enrichment program and it can include technology. We’ve maintained our tech equipment purchases. We do need to increase textbook purchases. The enrichment program will be related to technology.

    Yost – This budget is dominated by labor, the people that work with our children. To keep quality up and costs lower, we have to make the investments.

    DeAngelo – The State is paying for the college credit program now but won’t be later on. It will become a town cost. Pre-kindergarten? What about 1 and 2 year olds? How about showing up at the hospital to take over and train them? You are creating robots. She makes a motion to amend the school budget and reduce it by a million dollars.

    O. Barber – We can’t reduce it; we have to vote it up or down, right? Also, the numbers need to be aligned right, not centered. I appreciate the beauty, though, of centered budget sheets.

    Crispe – Takes a 15 min recess to discuss.

  • One Million Dollars....a Bratt Rep Town Meeting BCTV Special

    Well, it’s almost lunch time and the Brattleboro Town Meeting Reps still have the Town School Budget on their minds, with amendments proposing cuts as high as one million dollars. 5:45 Live caught up with WSESU Superintendent of Schools Ron Stahley to talk about the direct implications of the proposed reductions.

    Click here to watch now.

  • Education Continues

    Back in session just after 11 am.

    15 million dollar school budget being discussed.

    Amendment to reduce the total sum by $1 million. The amendment is legal as long as there’s no direction as to what to cut, says Crispe.

    Agave – A friendly amendment to reduce the school budget by 2% (not $1 million), about $300,000 and what the finance committee recommends.

    DeAngelo agrees to the amending of her amendment.

    2% is $306,128 says Town Attorney Fisher.

    (Much struggling to subtract the 2%.)

    Yost – Why is this different than the Finance Committee’s recommendation?

    Agave – You are right. If it is easier, we could make it limited to a 2% increase over last year. Let’s stick with what we have.

    Agave – The school budgets are 2/3 of the taxes we pay. Municipal is mostly fixed costs. If we take school budgets off the table, we take spending off the table. No growth in Grand List or new revenue. This is a time when frugality is absolutely mandated. It’s important to remember we make decisions for the entire town. This body has a higher average income than the town as a whole. It’s representative of this body. We have to think of all taxpayers. We hear of people worrying that they have to sell their homes. The schools have a surplus each year. We’ve never cut the school budget. We’ve cut the municipal budget many times. We can accomodate a 2% cut without any noticeable decline in education or welfare of students.

    Newman – People are concerned about level of taxes. Incomes have not been going up. Many home owners are on fixed incomes. I support the 2% amendment.

    Stuart – I’m on the House Education Committee. We have rock star pre-K and dual enrollment programs. Brattleboro educators are deeply respected. Next week we take up the pre-K program. It’s a tough year. You should respect everyone’s hard work on this issue. I’m Scottish and cheap. I stretch a dollar. We need to invest in programs that save us money. Pre-K is one of those programs. These will save us money in the long run. Think long-term.

    Cadran – I’m only 7 years out of local schools. In one word, I’m jealous of the schools today. I missed out on opportunities. We need to invest in infrastructure and education in tough times. Lets pass this now and make a level funded budget next year.

    Cormier – I found it funny that we all pulled out calculators to figure the budget reduction. There is a cost to special education, and we need to invest in education. Pass the budget the way it is. It’s the most important thing we can do as a community.

    Spruyt – Calls the question, but fails…

    Davidson – I’m in favor of the Finance Committee’s report. The budget isn’t sustainable. I came prepared for about 1.49%, and wonder if others did. Can we amend it to be what is in the report?

    Crispe- Let’s act on the motion, then you could make another motion.

    Bouboulis – we can go on all day accepting amendments, if Spoon wants to accept it, it can be done.

    Agave – Accepts the amendment to the amendment to the amendment.

    Fagelson – We’ve had many motions and amendments. I haven’t seen anyone second these. We have to go through this to see who seconded each amendment.

    Crispe – Amended to 1.49%

    DeGray – $15,078,350 is the new number.

    Melton – I see major new expense being health and dental benefits. It isn’t negotiable. We’re paying teachers as they expect. If you vote for this, you are firing people. There’s no other way to reduce the numbers.

    Stahley – Ask us what the impact would be.

    Phillips – we’re getting off track. The impact isn’t germane until we decide to amend. If we don’t agree to amend, we don’t need to hear about the impact.

    Crispe – The issue is the amendment by 1.49%. He will explain how that would impact their budget.

    Stahley – That’s about 4.5 positions. We can’t reduce class sizes. We’d look at foreign languages, music, art, capital improvements. You’d be changing the nature of these schools. We can’t close classrooms, so we’d look at other programming.

    Wilmerding – I’m on the finance committee and work as a substitute teacher for the schools. The finance committee didn’t ask what the effect of these cuts would be. I had raised the question of contingency plans if the budget was reduced. This first year, we could have been more thorough. I’ve been in all these schools. Everyone works hard and we have the superintendent of the year. (Applause). Those who might be impacted should abstain from voting.

    Johnson – I spent 12 years on the high school borad, but there comes a time when you can’t afford thing, just as we find in our home budgets. Why is it that the only place to cut is staff?

    Stahley – 80% of budget is staffing. You can cut back on some programming, but you’ll have to look at staffing to get at that figure. We can reduce books, tech and field trips, but instructional staff have to be looked at. Special ed has mandates. Foreign language is successful, but we can’t make reductions without impacting programs.

    Starke – I want to support the cut. Whenever a cut is bought up, we hear that the important things will be cut. Foreign language started as a partnership with SIT students. We now pay for it all. We can use partnerships to save money. We can do lots of things. I support the cut, sorry Margaret, but we can’t afford it this year. We had surplus the last few years bigger than this cut. We’re coming on harder times than we’ve had.

    McLoughlin – the schools are an economic driver, and we need to grow the Grand List by being an attractive community. Schools here are better than where we came from. The motion to amend is arbitrary, proved by the finance committee not asking the school board about it. Asking that employees abstain is unwarranted.

    Webster – Will there be time to debate the amendment as well as the budget?

    Crispe – Go ahead.

    Webster – Couple of facts drive this decision. The quality of education is good here, and Brattleboro budget is below the state average in its increase this year. The impacts would be significant. People won’t see major increases with this budget. There is significant state aid to keep costs down for medium income people. It won’t hit as many as some are implying here. We are a top 10 small town. Good schools help development. We’re in competition for students. This budget is a quality budget.

    Cox – It’s been suggested that those who receive money from the school’s budget should abstain. A ruling from the moderator?

    Crispe – Nothing specifically addresses that in the charter or state law. Roberts says no member should vote on which they have a direct interest not common to others, such as entering a contract. However, no member can be compelled. Our tradition is to allow all representative to vote on every issue.

    Harvey – I’m on a low fixed income. This winter, my heater is set to 60. last winter it was set to 40. This amendment would save me less than $1.60 a month. You don’t need to fool with the budget to save me $1.60 a month.

    Page – I came prepared to vote for a level funded budget and no increase, because I hear from so many people of challenges of declining income and increasing expenses. The town is under that duress. However, after listening to the finances, when we spend money in younger years we have a better graduation rate and spend less on prisons. It makes dollars and sense to me. They grow up and pay taxes, and makes things easier for the next generation. They are paying for the bad decisions of my generation, like war. This vote supports the next generation. I’ll make cuts elsewhere.

    Turnas – John is wrong. We did meet with the schools in the finance committee. We did meet with the school board and John wasn’t there.

    Secrest – We moved here 10 years ago, partly for the school. If it’s a great school we may think we can cut things. I pay a lot in taxes. How do you respond to ever rising costs? How will that be addressed in the future? How are you planning long term?

    Stahley – We look at budgets really closely. What is critically needed? It starts out higher and we pare it back. Down the road, we face sequestration cuts – academic coaching, remedial positions reduced. We look at these programs critically. We look for least impact on students, but we have federal mandates and are guided by that. We are sensitive to incomes. We try to balance needs of schools with the ability to pay. Incremental capital renovations can save us money. We have to make improvements to stay certified. Our debt service is declining each year. Fixed costs… we negotiate salaries. The increase this year is under 2%.

    Atkinson – We have been looking at ways to save money, like energy consumption. We have to heat the buildings, so solar projects will save us money. We do look ahead. If more families sent their kids to our schools, it would help. We compete with private schools, but would welcome their support.

    Schoales – All programs are being evaluated to make sure they work. We also advocate for single payer health, which would save us. In the long term, we hope to see some benefits.

    Siegel – Can I call the question? Not yet? I’ll be sitting here.

    DeGray – this is unprecendented discussion for this length of time. This is what should have been happening. I’m going to make an amendment, but will wait. I sit here as a Selectboard member, but when we determine raises for non-union employees, the town manager gets a 1% raise this year… your principals are getting 4% increases. How can you say you are being tight when you give more than we do on the town side?

    Stahley – Those increase have not been determined. It will be closer to average. It’s an accounting things. We look at comparitive salaries around the state and region, and mirror teacher salary increases. We look at districts of like sizes.

    Schoales – Superintendent hasn’t has any increase in two years.

    Levy – Best of intentions all around. I’m sure, but so many people are convinced that the rise in school budgets and in taxes has made it impossible for them to continue to live in Brattleboro. We represent the town, and have higher incomes than those people. We do help, but when people can’t pay heating bills, taxes, mortgages.. people who came here for a better live, their lifestyles are being challeneged. To cut the budget a little bit, it shows we care for those on fixed incomes, the unemployed, under-employed. It would be wonderful to show empathy for those who out there. I’m an educator but want to vote for this.

    Siegel – Call the question of amended version to reduce by 1.49%.

    Debate is ceased on the amendment. 103-22.

    Phillips – we still haven’t voted on whether to amend.

    Crispe – Yes we are. We’ll return to the motion to amend.

    Fagelson – These amendments were friendly amendments, so we need to vote on the amendment.

    Crispe – First things first. First, the Davidson amendment to reduce school budget by 1.49%, then we’ll do the main motion.

    Barber – I think we’re voting to amend the main motion, so that the main motion will have the new numbers.

    Crispe – Right. You can still debate or amend the main Article 8 motion after we dispose of this motion to amend.

    The amendment to reduce fails, 62 yes, 67 no.

    Crispe – The main motion.

    Cain – I call that we adjourn for lunch.

    But, they start to vote on the school budget of $15, 306,416.

    DeGray – Motion to take $76, 464 out of the educational reserve fund and apply it to the revenue to reduce taxes. One of the things, in surplus revenue, you’ll see that $1 million was there, and we can defray taxes with the $585,000 remaining. It would pay for capital improvement plans in the first year. Keep looking here in the future. This pays with money we already have in the bank.

    Stahley – This is for the first year debt payment of Article 5?

    DeGray – Yes. It comes in as revenue.

    Stahley. Article 5 stands alone. We’re dealing with the main money article. Is it legal to bring that money over to make that payment?

    Crispe – How they apply the reserve funds is up to the school board.

    DeGray – No, it would impact the tax rate set on the taxpayers.

    Crispe – we can’t tie this to an article already voted, right?

    Fisher – This motion keeps the amount to stay the same, but appropriate from the fund balance money toward this budget. Same amount raising, just not all through taxes.

    Kane – Legally, that money is still technically there, but we’ll go with the directive of the body.

    Phillips – I don’t think this is germane to the article. It is how much will it raise. This motion is about applying money to it. The main motion mentions other revenue sources. Is this one of them?

    Kane – Other revenue is all other than state support and taxes. It would include this.

    Phillips – If the motion is to reduce the amount to raise, that would be germane. We need to have a dollar amount.

    DeGray – We have an unbalanced budget. My motion adds $76k to the budget, to offset the cost of the capital project. If the motion needs a total amount, I can do it. It would come from the unreserved fund sitting there, not from taxes.

    ? – we dealt with the reserve fund. We’ve gone on past Article 6. We can’t go back. To take more out of a fund, we’re stepping into a gray area.

    Crispe – We’re going to be here for a while. Let’s take a lunch break and see if we can work it out. Recess until 1:45 pm.

  • $15+ million Education Budget Passes

    Back in business at 1:53 pm.

    Crispe asks for motions to be in writing from now on. Recognizes new Representatives.

    Crispe – We met over lunch and the DeGray motion is appropriate. amending to take $76,384 from reserves and apply toward revenue for budget.

    Underhill – Do we have to have the number as part of it, or can we change it later. (Yes, can change later.)

    Article 8 Amendment passes.

    Main motion remains. To pass the budget for $15,306,416, etc.

    Tortolani – I’m in favor of the article. They did a good job, considering inflation. The major burden is on those with higher income levels.

    Bouboulis – A small amendment, to increase budget by $1,200 for televising all school board meetings. They are the only elected board that doesn’t have meetings televised. It’s time. We had a good debate at the informational meeting but people couldn’t see it on TV.

    Atkinson – Aside from whether we are televised. I’d not increase it by that small amount. We’ll find a way to fund that. You don’t need to spend the time to increase the budget. I hear what you are saying. Maybe this year. BCTV can come set up a camera anytime.

    Bouboulis – The other boards use paid producers so it is done right. To insure the public body is covered takes a minuscule amount of money.

    Atkinson – We’ll find a way to make it happen.

    ? – We can increase the budget, but not tell them how to spend it.

    Yost – We passed Article 5 about keeping money in reserve. but now we have an amendment. We passed Article 5.

    Crispe – Out of order in this discussion. We’re discussing the $1,200, however, it does work out.

    Cummings- I’m confused and I know the rules. We had a motion to direct them to take money from one account and apply it to another, and we can’t tell them what to do, yet now we’re being asked to do that. It’s out of order. Anyone could “ask” that funds are used a certain way.

    Crispe – Right, we can’t direct them how to spend it. The motion will be to increase the budget by $1,200. We can raise it up or down, and can discuss our reasoning, but we cannot direct them how to spend it.

    Webster – We have big business to attend to. We can trust them to do it.

    DeGray – I agree with Dora and they should be televised, and little press coverage. We can defeat this and they will find a way to cover the meetings.

    Montgomery – Call the question.

    Debate is ceased. 118-9

    Amendment to raise by $1,200 is defeated.

    Crispe – Back to the main motion about the budget.

    Question is called.

    Debate is ceased. 89 – 37

    $15,306,416 budget passes.

  • Article 9 - Local Control

    Article 9

    Schoales – It’s about local control. We believe local governance and control only works when we have direct access to those making policy. It’s vital to children and adults. We request that the VT Assembly have state policy that preserves local governance and control of public education, including efforts to over consolidating districts.

    Cox – I think I understand this. It’s asking the state to control local initiatives. It’s a bit vague and I’ll vote against it.

    Falion – I’m in favor of the intent, but this is a bit vague. How do we define local community? Could it be reworded?

    Bouboulis – This is a serious policy question, and the people in the community can express their views. We have to speak for the citizens of the town. Hard to represent the entire community’s views. We’re not the voters of Brattleboro, we’re Representative Town Meeting.

    Stuart – I appreciate the intent, but we could be more effective. We’re looking at ways to increase grassroots involvement. A mandate might constrain us. Help us figure out how to address challenges of declining enrollments and rising costs. We get good results.

    Urffer – There’s a pink elephant in the room. Where did this come from?

    Schoales – It is meant to address school districts being consolidating, and further removing of control from this body. We’d have a representative on a regional board. Economy of scale is being promoted as a way to save money. The savings aren’t real. That’s the movement afoot. It asks the general assembly to enact legislation to have policy that local control is preserved. I’m not sure what’s vague. We need to make decisions about consolidation, not others.

    Gartenstein – Local control is laudable to a certain extent. We don’t operate the schools in isolation. Big systematic pressures. We should endorse the state trying to deal with education funding issues and organization of schools globally.

    Webster – I have problems with the article. Words mean something. This statement is about more than school consolidation. Our state constitution says we educate our kids. Education is the state’s responsibility. The sentiment I can understand, but our state funding system is forgotten. I’ll vote against it.

    Cain – We do not have complete access for deaf and hard of hearing. I’d vote against this.

    Schneck – This article feels weird. It’s not policy or procedure. A well funded school system could consider this. Other districts would not be advocating for this. I’m bothered by Stuart’s us vs them language and don’t think this is the way to approach this.

    Cadran – I like the sentiment but get tired of the idea that the state will take over our schools. It’s an unborn fear. If it does come to that, we’ll give the state our opinion. We shouldn’t speak for everyone in town. People can give their own input.

    Turnas – I can’t speak for everyone, as Dora says. Maybe the state has to consolidate for federal reasons. I’ll vote against it.

    Verzino – I call the question.

    Debate ceases, 109-16.

    Article 9, to send a statement, fails.

    • Town Business

      Town Business
      Stahley – Jim Cain – 34 years of service! (Applause).

      Cummings – Recognize our administrator of the year, Stahley. Lucky to have him here. (Applause).

      Article 10 – Auditors Report Accepted

      Cain asks that the boards stand while speaking to be heard and seen. They agree.

      Article 11 – Capital Grant Review Committee – Both Fagelsons are nominated. Booie says she doesn’t speak for Bob. Barb Sondag says Bob spoke for Booie earlier and they both accept. DeGray says Fagelson did not want to be on the committee, at lunch. He said he’d step down. Gartenstein say he made a mistake. He amends his own motion, to appoint Ardent Fagelson and other person TBD by moderator. It passes.

      Article 12 – The Town can hire a CPA.

      Article 13, 14, 15 – Town Clerk, Treasurer , and Attorney appointed.

      Article 16 – Pam Becker, Stephen Frankel, and Jane Southworth appointed to the Brooks Memorial Library Board of Trustees.

      Article 17 – Salaries set for Selectboard.

      Article 18 – To see if the Town will appropriate up to $765,000 from the Unassigned Fund Balance as of June 10, 2012 for the purpose of funding capital improvements outlined in the FY14 Capital Improvement Plan.

      DeGray says he won’t stand to speak.

      Cain says the body requested it and the board agreed.

      Crispe – We can’t compel anyone to stand, we are just recommending it.

      Wessel – Why are we replacing a cruiser with 92,000 miles on it?

      Wrinn – It’s a 2007 Dodge Charger. It costs a lot to maintain. It’s a safety issue and maintenance issue to repair the cars.

      Yost – Infrared camera for $15,00? You can get one for much less than that. What capabilities are linked to that cost?

      Buccossi – Thermal imaging cameras allow us to see in a smokey environment. Safer for fire fighters and victims. Used at nights in shallow water after accidents. This is the most recent quote I have on one.

      Verzino – More quantification. Why one at this cost when they are cheaper?

      Buccossi – Thermal imaging cameras for fire services cost this much. Special housings to protect from heat and water. It’s what they run, and this isn’t the most expensive one.

      Turnas – License plate reader system for $20k in addition to the grant?

      Sondag – The $20k not included in the total. The grant pays for it, but we list it as a capital improvement on this list.

      Spruyt – Sidewalks. Replacing the severely deteriorating curbing on Elliot Street? Its crumbling.

      Sondag – It’s for sidewalk and curbs.

      Spruyt – there is no granite curbing there.

      Barrett – Lack of funding. We’ll replace 750-1000 feet out of our 35 miles of sidewalk.

      Davis – Are there other items that are paid for with grants. The numbers don’t add up. $38k more on the list than funds to pay for them.

      Gartenstein – There is grant funding.

      Agave – In December the Finance Committee wrote a report to the Selectboard about this $765,000. Our understanding was that 1/3 was for a truck, and 2/3 was to defray expenses. What point did the use of money shift?

      DeGray – policy is that any items over $10k are part of the Capital Plan and not in the budget.

      Agave – all the items are over $10k is one way to measure. Regardless, at the time, the board was talking about using 1/3 for a dump truck and 2/3 to defray expenses. Is none of it being used to reduce taxes?

      Gartenstein – Not sure I understand. We went though all the expenses and the capital plan is what is set out in the Town Report. $836k total with some in grants, and $765k is what is being asked for capital expenses. It is exactly how we planned to use the money.

      Agave – The budget was short for a while, and the board was in a bind. All the expenses were in the capital budget except for the dump truck. Then the surplus in the capital account was discovered, everyone went yippee, and people said let’s get the dump truck and use the rest to offset taxes. Now you are saying you are applying all $765 to capital expenses. Is that clear? It seems like the money was there originally.

      DeGray – when we went through the capital plan, there was a request for a new grader. We said we couldn’t afford it this year. We got them a dump truck. We’ve stuck to our capital plan pretty much. If we didn’t have the undesiugnated funds to use, it would impact our tax rates. The capital plan has a huge impact on our taxes. We have $300,000 here for paving. We should probably spend more. We bought a firetruck a couple of years ago, saving us interest payments. We were in debt when I came on the board, and we’ve accrued enough in seven years to make this contribution to fund the capital plan. I feel fortunate that we have the money to apply. If not, this would be a cash contribution impacting tax rate by 7.5 or 8 percent. All of our meetings are open. This budget has been scrutinized and department heads are probably glad I’m leaving, but the money here is not going to impact our bottom line because we have it in reserve.

      Agave – OK. Thanks.

      It Passes.

  • Skating Rink

    Article 19 – To see if the Town will appropriate up to  $172,000 from the Unassigned Fund Balance as of June 30, 2012 for the purpose of replacing two compressors at the skating rink.

    DeGray – Moves to amend to increase amount to $362,000 and increase repayment time to 20 years.

    Lolatte – We’ve gathered information and have verified it all. This facility is a major winter sports center for youth and adults, and brings in $100k to general fund. User fees will pay this back over 20 years.

    Spruyt – A boiler as well? Compressor next to a boiler? What’s being done with excess compressor heat?

    LoLatte – heat recovery options cost much more ($721k). We can recoup some of the hot water. The boiler is 18 years old and needs to be replaced.

    Spruyt – how many square feet of conditioned space? (Don’t know) For a 6 unit apartment building, I couldn’t see spending that much to replace a boiler.

    DeGray – This item is about the skating rink and compressor.

    Spruyt – I feel like the numbers given to us are to scare us away. The prices seem absurd. I don’t buy it. I call into question the entire project and how it is managed. Let’s figure it out.

    Cain – Now we are tripling the costs of something? Did you get local bids?

    Gartenstein – At the informational meeting, we heard about new problems with the lower bids, and got better figures from three sources. At the time, we couldn’t make a recommendation. I’m still there. LoLatte asked yesterday that we spend the $362k, but the Selectboard hasn’t reviewed this yet.

    Cain – If we vote for this will be up and running by next season.

    Lolatte – It needs to begin work. Waiting a few months not good… specialists gave us these recommendations. I’d make the same recommendation at a special town meeting,

    Cain – If we vote this down you can’t open?

    Lolatte – we have one compressor working on one leg. It wouldn’t make it through the season. The season will be in jeopardy.

    Burke – (Phillips speaks for Mollie Burke) – I strongly support this article. Carol has good management and strategic partnerships, and does well raising funds. I’ve taught skating at the park. It has broad appeal. It attracts young families to our town. WE need to maintain it.

    Zak – What is the useful life of the new one?

    Lolatte – The current system is from the 70’s and has been rebuilt. Life expectancy can be 30-40 years for compressors, but motors have 30 years, and cooling towers about 20 years.

    Cox – When this money comes from General Fund, will there be interest charged? Are we subsidizing this and losing interest? (Yes, no interest.)

    Melton – What will it do to the operational budget of skating rink.

    Lolatte – You’ll see a decrease in electric and maintenance costs.

    Bosworth – Skating Rink Improvement Fund… has it always been able to make these payments?

    Lolatte – 30 dollars of every hour the facility is rented goes in. It generates $24,000 a year.

    Diamondstone – I think we should skate on the pond, and stop using electricity to make ice. The weather makes ice. We could have a vacant building for skateboarders and take good care of pond ice.

    Bouboulis – I only found out about this hours ago. Many are confused about what’s going on. We were going to vote it down. I have concerns about the process. No one has seen the proposals.

    Harvey – I’m against this. I’d like to see people have a skating rink, but right now I’m reluctant to deal with financial issues that go out 20 years. We have to be very much more circumspect about handling money, and our expectations. I hope we’ll be more careful. It needs to be thought through carefully, and voted on at a special town meeting.

    Cadran – I was confused, but I have trust in Carol. It turns a profit, so we should support it.

    Cummings – At the info meeting we were told it would be dealt with at a later date, since it costs a different figure than what was given. I do support the article as amended, but thought we were going to consider it in a month or two. The Vermont Community Foundation is interested in helping.

    (It’s about 4 pm, btw.)

    Webster – When would the Selectboard meet again?

    DeGray – We’d have to look at a calendar to set another town meeting. Maybe in May?

    Webster – If there was language added that authorized the expenditure pending Selectboard approval, would that work?

    Lolatte – Sure.

    Webster makes friendly amendment to make approval conditional on Selectboard approval at a later date.

    DeGray agrees.

    Yost – Could the season be extended?

    Lolatte – It would cost more for electricity and associated costs. Happy to look at it, but the budget would need to increase.

    Citizen – I never knew we had a skating rink until this year. Advertising brings in revenue, could we add some in the budget.

    Stahl-Tyler – I have three kids, and this is the most important thing to them. My life would be easier without it, but it is a social center for ages 10-15 and provides a great opportunity.

    Underhill – I’ve worked with carol. It’s amazing what she’d done. You can trust her. This body should trust Carol.

    DeAngelo – Concerned about lack of detailed information, and no professional contract negotiators. You want our approval based on trust. That’s a slippery slope. How many things do we vote on on turst rather than details and facts. The rink is important, but this is almost half a million dollars. Not good to just let the Selectboard approve.

    Rueter – Giving up the rink would mean no hockey games. Electrical savings with this improvement?

    Lolatte – Efficiency Vermont helped. The more you spend, the more you save. Electricity savings is minimal. Maybe $2,300 total. No bragging rights. We’ve already been conserving.

    Rueter – will payback go into the undesignated funds? (Yes)

    Allen – Call the question.

    Debate ceases, 108-17.

    Motion to amend to pay for the skating rink improvements up to $362, 000 with Selectboard approval, passes.

    Article to pay for the improvements is approved.

  • The Town Budget, and Climate Change

    Article 20 – The budget. Authorizes raising and spending of $14,686,697 in FY14.

    DeGray – It is a 1.9% increase, and not an easy budget to put together. It is reposnsible and provides the services this town expects.

    Harvey – No surprise that I’m opposed to this budget. The budget fails to take into account resilience. I operate a blog that relates to energy and global warming. Research shows alarming material. Organizations reporting dire consequences. Price Waterhouse Coopers. The World Bank. The CIA. There will be additional wars for food and water. The New England Aquarium says 100 year floods should be expected every 2-4 years by mid-century. Irene will happen again this decade, and twice next decade. The country won’t have money to bail us out. The state won’t be able to bail out Brattleboro. We need to be prepared for the kinds of disasters that will befall us.

    Harvey – 2050 will be in many of our lifetimes. We are expected to lose half all wildlife species in the world. WE may lose all hemlocks in Vermont. All conifers under sever stress. Fall colors may be dark brown with Oaks and Hickory. The economic fallout will be fast and hard. People thank me for my optimism about this. I’m optimistic if we take it into account now to get there. If not, we’ll be at the mercy of the merciless elements. The technology to deal with this all exists, and better tech is coming. We need to act financially and planning on things we don’t know about happening. Borrowing money that will be repaid in 20 years makes me uncomfortable. Every large financial concern must take into account resilience and our ability to respond to demands we cannot anticipate. Take out the long terms bonds and bring the budget back to us. I voted for the Police Fire bond, but I hope it can be divided up and voted on in parts, so we can look at it again in the future.

    DeAngelo – Due to lateness of the hour, and we won’t get to vote on article 20 any time soon. I move we adjourn to a date certain.

    Crispe – You need to state the time certain.

    DeAngelo – Recess until 1pm on Sunday, if people can meet.

    Underhill – Can we poll people on meeting tomorrow vs. next Saturday?

    Crispe – Not debatable or amendable.

    Elwell – Is the facility available tomorrow?

    Crispe – We don’t know. Not debatable.

    Diamondstone – We could move to be a committee of the whole for 15 minutes to discuss when we can meet.

    Crispe – We’ve been going and hour and half. Let’s take a 10 minute recess and a solution.

  • The Town Budget continues...

    Article 20 – The budget. Authorizes raising and spending of $14,686,697 in FY14.

    Continuing on with Article 20, and a motion to recess.

    Crispe – We’ve considered the best approach. A Committee of the Whole would allow a brief discussion to briefly discuss continuing tonight or some other day.

    Franks – Doesn’t the other motion take precedence? Shouldn’t the other motion be withdrawn?

    DeAngelo withdraws temporarily.

    Bouboulis – The last time we went into it, we had a hard time getting back out. How do we get back out of it?

    DeGray – I volunteer to be a timekeeper.

    15 minutes.

    To become a Committee of the Whole to discuss time management passes 84-33.

    Crispe – We are a Committee of the Whole. Would you prefer to stay tonight and finish business? Prefer to come back tomorrow? Tonight is overwhelming. Other thoughts on timing?

    Cappy – I book this room a year in advance, and pay almost $1,000 a day for it.

    Wilmerding – will there be a recess if we stay tonight?

    Crispe – Meetings that went late in the evening in the old days, we’d stop an hour for dinner. I’d suggest we take a break.

    Johnson – We talk of trust. I don’t trust everyone to come back for important issues. That’s my fear.

    Crispe – there still needs to be a quorum if we come back. If we say tonight, you have to come back tonight.

    Allen – We signed up for this and don’t recall having a time limit. If we do break, everyone should come back. Let’s break at 6 pm, and reconvene at 7 pm.

    (Room basically supports this idea).

    Russell – I’m concerned that the issues before us are huge. With exhaustion, there may be a rush to call questions and cease debate. I feel everyone needs to speak their mind. I’ve been cut off by calling questions. I urge patience.

    Stafursky – We should have a brief break. Maybe 15 minutes.

    Crispe – People need to eat. We could order out pizza. (Applause, laughs).

    Wessel – Why not we look at where we are at six, and decide then?

    Lane – We just wasted an hour. We need to do our work. Grow up, you got voted in. In 74 we were hear until 11. You’ve wasted a lot of my time.

    Committee of the Whole ends.

    Crispe – Back to considering Article 20.

    DeAngelo – Motion to amend to amount of budget to $14,350,735. A reduction by $335,962. That is the first year’s payment on Police Fire bond interest payments.

    DeGray – This is specific to an Article voted on by Town Meeting Reps. Miss Deangelo can make an amendment but not to a specific action.

    Crispe – Correct. We cannot direct how it is used, but can reduce the amount.

    Bouboulis – The motion was the amount.

    DeAngelo – That’s fine.

    Bouboulis – I voted against the budget. We can’t afford the 10% increase. The next Selectboard will cut services to avoid this. Phillips asked about which cuts. The easy thing is the Library, user fees. The bulk of the budget is salaries and benefits. Nine months ago I was looking at house and ready to settle in Brattleboro, but saw the Police Fire costs and decided I can’t afford to buy a house. It changed everything and the idea of moving has entered into my space. People are concerned about not being able to afford to live here. The middle class. Moderate pensions. Not poor enough to get help, but don’t have a lot of money. Water and sewer is going up. Retirees fear they don’t have savings for long term care. Town employes say they can’t afford the taxes. We have the ability to rethink this right now and send a message that this needs to be rethought. How to do it at a lower cost? It just does not make any sense.

    Cormier – This is a 1.9% increase, but taxes are going up 10.7%

    Bouboulis – what it will be when the bond goes into effect. The principal. For 20 years.

    Stromberg – Is there another way to approach the Police Fire project?

    Crispe – that issue has already been decided by this body.

    Stromberg – but we haven’t broken ground and can address issues.

    Crispe – you can address the money. Can’t debate what we’ve already debated and decided on. We’ve decided on those improvements. You can reduce the budget if you choose, and you can argue your reasons based on costs.

    Stromberg – can town council advise us? Only through budget?

    Fisher – Police Fire cannot be reconsidered. The issue is the budget amount, and that can be amended up or down.

    Stromberg – In general can we address the project in another way?

    Fisher – the Selectboard can still do the Police Fire and find those savings somewhere else.

    Stromberg- I understand. Is there a way to address the Police Fire project going forward, at some point? A petition?

    Fisher – during other business or at Selectboard meetings.

    Stromberg- Other business. Thanks.

    Gartenstein – At special town meeting we had a discussion of the project. We discussed paying for that work. I explained the financial impact, and that it was not affordable. I was asked about financial pressures, and I said they are the same each year. I thought the need for additional revenue was clear. I voted against the bond. Oct 20 minutes show few in favor of the 1% sales tax, but 99 voted in favor of the renovations. We have to go forward and do this. If we take out the $365k, you can’t bind the Selectboard to not borrow the money. But if you vote to take it out, I will take that as an indication that town meeting members no longer want that project to go forward. That’s the best we can do right now. Unless we reverse our prior vote.

    Barber – I voted for the bond issue. In general terms, the projects are good. Because of the change in the financial climate, I’m in favor of stringing it out. The selectboard would have to figure out how to do this. The town voted to do this. The town didn’t necessarily say the bonds should be issued in FY14. It would be possible to look again. The bond vote was “not to exceed”. I’m not sure we’ve wrung all fat from this project. The weight room could be wrung out. It is that sort of thing. The new Selectboard will listen and let’s string this out and trim the fat.

    Wilmerding – I voted for the Police Fire bond and voted against the 1%. It is a mixed message. We recommended the tax, then reversed our decision.

    DeAngelis – I thought we couldn’t discuss something we’ve voted on.

    Crispe – The conversation is germane if it is about reducing the budget.

    Wilmerding – I’m against reducing the budget by that amount. You can be on the oversight committee and that could be a way to impact the total bottom line. Can we divide the bonding up? (Yes, says O’Connor). We’ll have a strong hand through oversight.

    Schneck – The more I think of it, this is a dangerous precedent for this body to reduce a budget by an amount and trusting the Selectboard. It’s a reverse blank check. Moving forward, it is dangerous to hope a reduction for a specific reason.

    Phillips – So it is a dangerous world out there. This is our only option., That’s the world we live in. We’re stuck with sending you a message. We can’t formally reconsider it. I support a resolution later on to deal with this. It isn’t dangerous to send a message. There isn’t money to pay for this. We didn’t plan on a 10% reduction of staffing. There are going to be tough choices. Are we going to force those choices or let it go. I’m going to vote to force the choices. I hope the new Selectboard takes a hard look at budget issues.

    Peter Vanderdoss – We’ve voted on the bond, but the vote was an authorization not an obligation. We were misinformed. We need some repairs, but not the expansion. The bond is extravagant, costing over $20 million. Money due before construction even starts. Rampant spending is bringing this country to our knees. Taxes are going up. I’m for paring down the Police Fire budget and repairs as separate items.

    Diamondstone – I’m am indebted to our police and fire fighters. Conflict of interest says it is unethical to vote by people who had a financial interest. Long term indebtedness. Our costs will triple in the next few years. Long term debt needs to prepare us for catastrophes we don’t see coming. If we want to do repairs, I’d vote against the reduction. But we’re going to pay banks, not workers. Pay bankers for 20 years. It should not be a long term bond. Someone who votes in favor can vote for reconsideration, according to Roberts Rules. There can be a motion to reconsider.

    Crispe – Correct about Roberts Rules, but state law says we can’t. Even if we want to, we can’t once we take up another article.

    Daims – Statutes forbid us reconsidering the identical article. The subject of the bond is open, right?

    Crispe – Yes.

    DeGray – When I look out at everyone, we had a long debate on the town school budget. A motion to reduce the budget is fine and well, but never has been a motion to reduce the school budget based on debt service payments. It’s $246,000 this year. We pay that year after year, and never hold their operational budget hostage. You propose holding the operational budget hostage, and you voted for this last fall. I rang the 1% bell, and you chose to vote it down and listen to the business community. There’s a fairness issue here. The town made their case, and you voted for it. If you want to reduce the budget because it is too high, that’s fine. But to reduce it because nothing has changed since your October vote except second thoughts about the vote.

    Levy – I look with dismay on the people in my district, and the people who have worked so hard for this town, watching them slip unobtrusively into poverty and young people who can’t buy homes – they are being held hostage by excess spending. It’s a question of scale and balance. I did not vote at the last meeting, but I represent the people of District 2 and they will be hurt. We cannot turn our backs on seniors, young people, and those who can’t find work.

    Clark – Maybe we can pass this and do a petition. It might be go forth, then get feedback from our constituents we can handle it another way.

    Webster – Let’s split the baby to solve this. Municipal taxes have an effect on people of limited means. 1.9% is a great number in these times. The proposed cut is too extreme. Let’s reduce it by $100,000.

    Bouboulis – Fagelson raised a good point this morning about amendments on top of amendments. Is it a friendly amendment?

    Crispe – It is not a friendly amendment. You can have an amendment to an amendment.

    Cain – If we vote in favor of the cut, would that mean that the money just wouldn’t be spent this year. The board could spend it again later?

    Crispe – No. It would be a reduction of this year’s budget.

    Diamondstone – It must be accepted by the original motioner.

    Crispe – No.

    Wilmerding – Accepting another amendment puts us in a quandary. The original motioner has rights. This would deprive her of rights.

    Crispe – But that is how Roberts Rules works. Diamondstone appeals the decision of the Chair. The body gets to determine whether the decision is sustained. The body generally supports the Chair and it is sustained.

    Deangelo – I would have rejected Mr. Webster’s motion, had I been asked.

    Cox – What does Mr. Webster hope to accomplish?

    Webster – To break the tie of the amount to the issue, but also I don’t want to reduce the town budget too much, but want to reflect the opinion on the Police Fire bond issue.

    Rounds – I’d vote for this amendment.

    Harvey – The question of amount isn’t relevant. It’s about big increases in taxes going forward as a result of the bonds. We don’t want this money spent, and can say it by rejecting the budget altogether (not reducing it). This meeting decided to go with PAYT and it was reconsidered.

    Fisher – There can be a resolution during Other Business, or work with the Selectboard. Many different options, but right now it is a vote on the money.

    Wilmerding – Is a binding referendum possible?

    Fisher – Other business is non-binding, but the charter allows for a petition of 5% of voters, or 50 representative town meeting members, but only on the budget, and not Police-Fire.

    Secrest – How would the $100k or larger reduction be interpreted by the Selectboard? What’s the outcome?

    DeGray – I won’t be there but we discussed essential services during the budget – Police, Fire and Management are essential services; Library and Rec Department are non-essential. There is a potential for a reduction of staff, done with deliberation of board.

    Gartenstein – I’ve heard nothing during budget process and info meetings and today, any dissatisfaction with the budget as presented, except for the Police Fire project. Taking $100k out? I don’t understand. Either you want us to deal with Police Fire or not. Something will be cut. If you take cash out, but no one has said the budget isn’t good. Take out the $335, not just $100. What’s the purpose?

    Shela Linton – I’m here to support the original amount. I disagree with Mr. DeGray. Since October, many things have changed. Most of us, a lot has changed since October. My own life included. I’m a former town meeting rep and school board member. The Police and Fire bond. They are important, but we need to talk about equity. We don’t live in a fair world. Many are being pushed out of homes, and being cold, but what about young folks. I’m living in poverty. All my life. I’m sending an 18 year old to college next year. You talk about threats. I hear fear… you won’t have this or that. The selectboard says they’ll pick and choose what to cut, as threats. They want us to be fearful. We’re going to spend 14 million dollars for Police and Fire but only 120k for social services this year? We need to create equity. I don’t have a gym in my house. We talk about the older population, but what about the younger ones? My landlord’s rising taxes will push me out. 80% of mu income pays my rent. I live check to check. Stand up and say this is not OK. Look at it in a different way. We’ve become more aware and conscious. What was proposed in October isn’t exactly the same deal we hear about now. Keene can do it for less money. It doesn’t make sense to me at all. Listen to our stories. I’ve been here all my life and want to live here, we can’t afford to stay here and are being pushed out. Support Deangelos’s amendment.

    Crispe – It is after 6 pm now. How about another half hour.

    Allen – I call the question.

    Vote to cease debate on amendment passes. 97 to 15. (Note: The numbers of reps seem to be dropping).

    Vote to amend amendment to $100k fails.

    Vote on DeAngelo amendment to reduce by $335,962.

    Wheelock – Things have changed since October. Many of us voted for it, but sequestration has gone into effect. I’m having second thoughts about votes taken back then. We have fairly perceptive Selectboard members. By voting in favor of this we are looking for some way to moderate the impact of this project. I urge people to vote in favor of it.

    Finnell – DeGray is right that nothing has changed, but our awareness has. Sequestration and austerity trickle down and we’re facing an awareness that there is a lot less money available now. Funds for towns will be cut. Head Start will be cut. We didn’t mandate the expense, we authorized it. We need to take a new look at the budget and projects, and do it in a less expensive way that serves the people better.

    Southworth- I voted for the 1% and the facility. I’m voting for the DeAngelo amendment to send a clear message to the new Selectboard.

    Able – I call the question.

    Daims – All members must be heard, and some remain.

    Vote to cease debate fails, 69-43.

    Weinmann – I’m in favor of the amendment. Harvey’s words on unexpected events…

    Melton – We have voters that have been waiting to speak. I hope to hear from them before we break for dinner.

    Ramsey – I was a Town Meeting member who voted against the bond. I’m concerned about this large expenditure for the community in these times. My continued employment is uncertain due to outsourcing. I’m late middle age looking to the futre with increasing apprehension. My household budget and local taxes are the only things in my control. I can’t afford a 10% tax increase. I’d be reluctant to leave, but I have no choice but to recognize and anticipate this as a potential reality.

    Agave – I support the amendment because I am concerned about the tax rate, and most important parts of the Police Fire project can be achieved at lower cost. One of the more telling things was the answer to the question of a $100k reduction. The answer was library and fire. If we go through with this, there are threats. To support this is to send a clear message to redesign it.

    Oeser – To be clear, what’s the level of the unreserved fund, and what’s the guideline?

    Gartenstein – in general terms, a million and a half in general, and $3/4 million in cap fund. We voted to take 3/4 million to pay for capital. leaving 1.5 million. We should keep about 10% in reserve fund for contingencies. The skating rink will drop this below the 10%, but it will be paid back.

    Yost – we should support the budget as it stands. Don’t confuse settled issue of Police Fire building. There are avenues. The Selectboard gets the message.

    Brown – I will find it difficult to live here with this proposed budget. I’m on a fixed income.

    McKinney – I’d like to speak against the amendment. It’s clear the project needs close scrutiny. Stretching it out will cost more, and construction costs will start to rise. There are legitimate concerns and the Selectboard hears them.

    Chapman – We can’t afford not to do it. Regarding warnings of global warming, a top of the line infrastructure is a good defense. Building now may beat sequestration funding woes. Equitable service is delivered to citizens of the town. We should be reminded of the humans who deliver the services. There are public safety issues. We have not thought about safety, and cannot take them for granted.

    Manning – I voted against this in October. I felt the financial strain. I was surprised by the vote. I went along with the majority. Now I feel we need to support and not second guess what we’ve already done. I won’t vote for the motion.

    Johnson – This is difficult. We have no direct way to address this issue. I voted for it in October but have come to a new awareness of the situation and implications. I thank the finance committee for laying out the things to come. Good government means recognizing when we make a mistake. We don’t just go ahead with decisions if they might be wrong.

    Stahl-Tyler – We talk about taxes going up. What’s the amount if we go forward with Police-Fire?

    DeGray – There is a debt service payment. Tax rate will be determined by the operating budget, including all other articles, like human services. The board might reduce operational budget.

    Sondag – In October, bond rate debt is interest only the first year and second year is the highest payment. 9.7 cents on the tax rate if we borrow the full amount. Then it would go down. It’s your decision and discussion, but remember that this is about health and safety. I do have concerns that we don’t have exhaust systems at the fire station. I get that taxes are high. I understand that. But I’m responsible for keeping people healthy. It isn’t a threat. If it were better times, like 2001. You have a difficult decision and we all do.

    Stahl – Tyler – the amount we’d pay?

    Sondag – 9.7 cents on the dollar. $156 for a 150k house in year two.

    Verzino – We have buyers remorse. We want to approve this amendment to send a message. What options do we have when we make a bad decision before shovels are in the ground?

    Fisher – One is to vote to send a message, under other business you can have resolutions, you cannot reconsider the bond vote, and it is up to the Selectboard as to what it will do to apply to a bond bank. Can’t speak for the board at all.

    Daims – Are signatures for October referendum petition still on file in Town Clerk office? Mr. Fisher mentioned a petition. Cappy said they’d be on file for six years. The incoming Selectboard can honor the petition at any time.

    Crispe – We’re veering off issue. It’s on the amendment to reduce the budget.

    Rueter – Consequences of our vote. The bond vote is not reversible. If this vote passes, how long is the bond vote still valid for?

    Fisher – By Charter, three years.

    Truhan – In October, we needed to expand the safety and conditions of the facilities. Tonight we hear people have buyers remorse. This will strip a budget to send a message. For 50 cents I can throw a brick through window of city hall to send a message. I won’t support the amendment.

    Rounds – This will put us under our expenditures for 2012. Less than what they needed to spend to run the community last year.

    Distler – The 1.9% raise in the budget this year is a false figure. The interest came out of unassigned funds. It won’t be the case going forward.

    DeGray – the interest payment is in the 1.9% The undesignated funds were used for the skating rink and capital plan.

    Bouboulis – it came out of “found money” after the audit.

    Distler – Water and Sewer rates are going to be going way up.

    Siegel – I voted for the Police Fire project, and will vote for the amendment. The amendment decreases the budget by the amount of interest. It sends a message to the Selectboard that there is serious concern about how the project is happening. Gives the community to spend a year and rethink this to find another way to do it. There would be energy to take more personal involvement in available options. It opens up a year of opportunities and comes up again next year with better information.

    Question is called.

    Vote to close debate passes, 88-23.

    Amendment to reduce budget by $335,962. Roll call vote requested and granted. Town Clerk calls names, votes are spoken, and tally is kept.

    Yes – 44
    No – 74

    Amendment defeated.

    Underhill – I’d like to request a recess before the vote, and it will help people to come back by 8 pm.

    DeGray – Move the question.

    Crispe polls the room. Let’s do this article before dinner.

    Wilmerding – there is a draft of the motion for the next agenda item, and this is friendly to that. That the municipal budget be amended to transfer $20,000 to BaBB for another year to plan for River Garden management/ownership.

    Crispe – We can amend the budget as discussed before, up or down, but not direct them how to spend it. You’ll have to remove the references to how it will be expended.

    Fisher – Asking to give money to an independent organization from town funds might need debate.

    Allen – I call the question.

    Vote to cease debate on main motion passes, 81-18.

    Unamended budget passes, as presented.

    Recess until after dinner is unresolved.

    Lee Stookey – what if we break and don’t return with a quorum.

    Crispe – we’re required to end the meeting. We need a quorum, or we’ll have to recess or come back another day. Another suggestion – Fisher will go get us all pizza as option number three. (Send one to those of us writing this up, too!)

    Reps vote, and decide 57-50 to have a dinner break.

    DeGray – there are implications to be aware of. This is the longest town meeting I’ve been a part of. There are important issues and our responsibility. I don’t want to come back after Monday as a Selectboard meeting. We’ll come back until Town Meeting adjourns. Please be respectful of the upcoming articles. Please return. I know you will. 107 people left, maybe 110 when we come back.

    Recess til 8:15 pm.

  • This is news to me..

    I was unaware that a “member of the public, a voter” can speak at Town Meeting.

  • DID

    Crispe – Meeting comes to order (8:19 pm). Thanks all for returning. We do have a quorum.

    Article 21 is the DID Assessment. Authorizes raising and spending of $78,000 through special assessments in the Downtown Improvement District.

    Chapman – I yield to Kate O’Connor with BaBB.

    O’Connor – BaBB is involved in this article as the designated downtown organization. BaBB is a private non-profit with a board and have bylaws. We have the organization, and two arms. A property owners – the River Garden. The revenue to run it comes from rentals of storage and events. We’re also the downtown organization. Vermont has a program, towns can apply and get tax credits, loans and grants for those towns. There are 23 in Vermont. You have to have a designated downtown organization. BaBB was designated in 1999. The downtown program can raise funds by assessing those in the commercial property in downtown district. It’s not a tax on everyone, just commercial property in downtown Brattleboro. It’s a special assessment to pay for the activities of the downtown organization. Article 21 funds the organization.

    O’Connor – It’s outlined in town ordinance to be $78,000. We have to have a publicly warned meeting to take ideas about what they want us to do. We created a budget and workplan and the members voted on it. They want a vibrant downtown. Beautification with lights and flowers. Adding lights at Christmas. Help with marketing. It’s about what we do, and our membership approved it. The $78,000 is level funded from last year. No increase because we’re aware that taxes need to stay where they are. Take a careful look at the article – an assessment to pay for the activities.

    Oeser – An amendment, to add to include continued operation of River Garden, appoint committee to help BaBB maintain space, report back to Town Meeting and provide recommendations.

    DeGray – It is out of order. It talks of the use and operations of a private building. I believe it is out of order. I don’t think we can appoint a committee to oversee a private organization.

    Oeser – The response requires some history…

    Crispe – We have a point of order pending, whether the motion is appropriate. The chair won’t rule on whether it is germane. I ask you, is the proposed amendment appropriate under our rules?

    Oeser – the downtown organization is a creature of state law. In March 1999, BaBB was designated. Act 29 authorized $150k to Brattleboro to buy the Rite Aide pharmacy. The town was to issue a deed to the state of Vermont. In July 199, the Selectboard discussed the money going to Brattleboro, not BaBB. The deed would be written from BaBB to the Town of Brattleboro. That does exist. You have heard about two arms. I submit that the case is that they are intertwined and need help in separating. That’s why it is germane.

    DeGary – Oeser gives information that is not factual. In 2005, this body approved funding for the DID. The organization existed. The request is out of order.

    Oeser – In 2005, the tax assessment district was set up so revenue stream would flow to BaBB, but the designation occurred in 1999. In the renewal applications, there are references by baBB to the River Garden as a public space being overseen.

    Crispe – Motion is to add language about River Garden… Mr. Fisher, your opinion?

    Fisher – If you allow the body to rule on it it they can overrule us. My opinion it is not germane. It is true that baBB is the designated organization. The town has no authority to tell the organization what to do with its assets. BaBB might not be the fiscal agent throughout the year. This is a special assessment district, allowed by Charter, and appropriations are approved by public meetings, then the Selectboard, then Town Meeting. Tacking on what an organization will do.. there’s no authority to do that in our Charter. If you want to do this, take it up under other business.

    Crispe – asks the room their opinion, if it is germane

    Wilmerding – This is the second time that BaBB has proposed to divest itself. It was built with over $700k of state and federal money… at meetings of the Selectboard, BaBB brought budgets without operating expenses…

    DeGray – The issue is whether this is germane.

    Crispe – He says it will relate to whether it is germane.

    Wilmerding – it is germane as it is the governing body and we’ve received funds for this building.

    Cox – A clarification of the question. That’s a technical question. It doesn’t need to germane or not. We have the right to do things that are illegal and bear the responsibility for the consequences. Can we have the discussion?

    Crispe – That’s what I’m asking. If you decide it is appropriate, we’ll hear it.

    Harvey – Oeser raised an unchallenged issue. If correct, it is germane. Who’s name is in the deed? Who owns it?

    Fisher – baBB is on the deed to the River Garden and has a mortgage to the town for about $150,000.

    Peter Vanderhoss – It’s wrong to sell a public space. In 2004, there was a video of baBB proposed giving it to the town of Brattleboro. The town should by the River Garden. It’s a place to meet for small businesses and non-profits. It’s very useful for the town. It helps homeless get out of the cold. I urge your consideration.

    Phillips – I think you should rule on whether this is germane. I’ve never seen this. If you rule, we can appeal.

    Crispe – I have done work for baBB so I don’t feel I should rule.

    Phillips – is this debatable?

    Crispe – Yes. is the amendment appropriate?

    Verzino – To the germaneness… there have been public funds. That money didn’t come from Brattleboro taxpayers. The town hasn’t been funding it – it is state and federal money.

    Wilmerding – $40k was granted by Brattleboro at the beginning.

    Stahl-Tyler – I’m completely confused. If we say it isn’t germane we can still discuss it?

    Crispe – If you say no, that’s the end of it. It could come up under other business.

    Question is called.

    Vote to cease debate passes.

    Vote that amendment is out of order is 60-43, so it is out of order.

    Crispe – Back to the main question of $78,000.

    It passes at 8:58 pm.

  • Hey!

    Article 22: No one asked if the special assessment (Mountain Home Park and Deepwood) 222,+++.00$$)was to be on individual homes or not… or is this a means of collecting the previously deferred payments? I find this confusing.

  • The end

    Article 22 – Mountain Home Park Special Tax District. Authorizes raising and spending of $223,276.47 through special assessments in Mountain Home Park.

    Cox – It is in West Brattleboro. Residents are thankful for water and sewer. It was adversely affected by Irene. many properties intended to pay for this are no longer there and the burden will fall on those who remain.

    Fisher – There was a hiatus after Irene, and this assessment is to pay debt service a year from June (2014), so the payments can be made.

    Sondag – Special assessment took it into consideration that some were in the flood way and could be lost. The town has an obligation to help take properties out of the floodway. The town made the request for the two year deferral of payments, and they have a year in escrow ahead, so they should be able to make these payments.

    Melton – We didn’t build infrastructure in the floodway?

    Sondag – we (TriPark) didn’t expand the water and sewer everywhere.

    Barrett – where the mobile homes were taken out, it wasn’t upgraded, and at the second entrance near the Whetstone at Brookwood.

    Melton – No properties with infrastructure put in without a home there now?

    Barrett – No. Some weren’t upgraded.

    Stuart – I worked hard with the Senate to get the money to make the reprieve from the debt service of the loan possible. Affordable housing is important state wide. They are top-notch houses with fabulous people who value their homes.

    Cain – Senator Illuzzi helped us, and this would be a valuable motion to pass.

    The article is adopted.

    Article 23 – Human Services. Authorizes raising and spending $131,660 to support human service programs and facilities.

    Schneck – Every year we say it is the most difficult committee. They wanted to allocated $197,000 dollars. We all wish we could accomodate and exceed that. I want to thank the committee for their work. (Applause)

    Darling – We read many applications. We need a new member. It’s tough all over and we’d like to give more, but we are supposed to promote public service and charity according to our Charter, and this allows us to do it.

    It passes unanimously.

    Article 24 – To raise and spend $10,000 to assist Brattleboro Climate Protection in FY14.

    DeGray – It’s my last official motion. I yield to Paul Cameron.

    Cameron – The year has been good, collaborating with energy committee, on streetlights, conversion to LED’s, to reduce municipal energy use, Vermont Home Energy Challenge, and thank you for your support.

    Agave – I’d like to amend this to add $1,000. I feel inflation continues every year, and the work Cameron does is good. We raised Selectboard pay, and spent on the skating rink, and we should spend on increasing climate protection work.

    Schneck – We just heard about level-funding of social service organizations. They aren’t asking for it, so it doesn’t make sense to me.

    Bouboulis – About 3-4 years ago it went from five thousand to ten thousand.

    Motion to add $1,000 for climate protection fails.

    Article passes.


    Article 25 – To see if the Town will designate Brattleboro as a Property Assessed Clean Energy Special Assessment District (PACE)

    Rueter – Quite a bit of public education about PACE, and I’m happy to answer questions, but I hope you are up on it. Home owners opt in, no costs to those not opting in, distinct from a bank loan, can be transferred at the time of sale. Can be set up for up to 20 years to pay for renewables. It can be set up to be cash flow positive. It supports local job creation and demand for weatherization. Not needed by high income, but for moderate income homeowners. No cost to the town. No bonding by the town (Efficiency Vermont is covering it), and no sot if you don’t opt in. Money comes from investors, and billing is handled by Efficiency Vermont with town. Payments go directly to them. Town has to create the district, put a lien on each property, and if someone defaults they pursue a tax sale.

    Wilmerding – I was the only town rep to attend the PACE info session. We are of moderate income and believe we should be doing definite things to convert to renewal energy, and would like to participate. We need a PACE loan to do it. I went to Solar Fest nine months ago and got fired up to reverse global warming, and went to a PACE workshop. This gives us the ability to move more assertively toward conversion to renewables.

    Stuart – I echo those remarks. Great work being done at local and state level. We are behind Germany. I applaud these efforts. Kudos to all.

    Barber – This sounds very good to me. He said wealthy folks don’t need this. Is eligibility based on means?

    Rueter – Regulations have been set with standard ratios. Not designed to help people underwater or out of a job, like other bank loans. There is no maximum income level or ceiling.

    Clark – I support this. It helps those without cash. Bills go down, and anyone can do it. I support it.

    Urffer – Can commercial property owners qualify?

    Rueter- it is for owner-occupied properties, and not for commercial. 1-4 unit buildings.

    It passes.

    Article 26 – Any other business…

    Gartenstein – offers a resolution for the departing Selectboard members, Dick, Dora, and Chris… thanks for your service. (Standing ovation).

    Bouboulis – a resolution that the school board provide coverage of all school board meetings. It is adopted.

    Wilmerding – I move that Rep Town Meeting strongly urge BaBB to conserve the River Garden and keep it for the community. It is adopted.

    Phillips – one more resolution, but to put on the record, a resolution that we urge the Selectboard to carefully scrutinize the borrowing and bonding of the project and find reductions in the costs, and delays if appropriate, and present a modest increase budget next year like this year. It is adopted.

    Webster – Sales tax is going up to 8.5%, and the exemption for $140 of clothes may go away. We should oppose this and tell the state. It is adopted.

    Cain – I’d like to thank the volunteers and BCTV staff. (Applause).

    Schneck moves to adjourn. It is adopted.

    9:50 pm.

  • Thaaanks

    Thanks Chris for streaming the Sub titles!!! for me . I got to catch up with the stream pretty quickly

  • Brattleboro History Lesson

    That was an interesting Town Meeting. The fact that Representatives actually stated that the Town was taxing its residents out of Brattleboro and saying it in public was refreshing. In 20-20 hindsight the property tax crises would not exist today if what happened in March of 1972 at a Selectboard meeting had not occurred. The Chairman of the Selectboard was Byron Sprague from West Brattleboro. He proposed and the board approved his motion to change the property tax payment system in Brattleboro from once per year to four times a year to make the burden easier for working families. If Brattleboro had not gone to the quarterly payment of property taxes, which Guilford has not done, and the taxpayers in Brattleboro get royally whacked once a year with a huge payment, then the property tax issue in Brattleboro would have been dealt with years ago.

    When the Town went to quarterly payments the school system and the town used that change to their budgeting advantage. A $200 tax increase in one year on a $100,000 home was only a paltry $50 per quarter and property taxes in Brattleboro were off to the races.

    The other issues impacting the mindset of spending occurred from 1979 through 1984 when Brattleboro went through an industrial boom with C&S Wholesale and the Exit 1 Industrial Park. As a member of the Town Finance Committee town and school budgets were increasing 10% a year but the grand list was growing so quickly and by such huge amounts that property tax bills were actually DECLINING in Brattleboro. Town Meeting was lulled into a sense of complacency. We (the Finance Committee) correctly predicted that the grand list bubble would burst in 1989 (which it did) and town meeting members needed to reign in their town and school spending binge (30% pay increase in one year for school janitors) which they chose to ignore. Many of us on the Town Finance Committee resigned because we realized that trying to explain finances with Town Meeting Representatives was the equivalent of trying to hold a conversation with a brick wall.

    From 1984 to 1989 property taxes doubled in Brattleboro within a five year period and doubled again within the following seven years. 1997 was the year that Brattleboro unofficially outgrew the town’s grand list to support its level of services that Town Meeting also chose to ignore.

    That financial cliff was temporarily avoided when Act 60 was enacted and once again Representative Town Meeting was lulled into a false sense of security with the property tax pre-bate and rebate process that artificially lowered local property taxes. Those who do not understand mistakes in town history are doomed to repeat them. If property taxes rose too high, the sentiment at town meeting was the state would step in and help out. Yeah, right. And the Moon is made of green cheese.

    The fundamental flaw in Act 60 was the funding formula to insure lower property taxes that was based on the false presumption of every town in Vermont having its grand list increase by 3% a year indefinitely to prevent property taxes from rising at the state level which is an economic impossibility. What Governor Shumlin did when he was a State Senator was work the state funding shortfall of Act 60 backwards by fudging the state income with the false assumption of every grand list in every town increasing by 3% every year. Because the House and Senate were Democrat majorities, the ends always justify their means which I predict will be repeated with single payer health care in 2017. The attitude in Montpelier is just do it and we will worry about how to pay for it later. Unfortunately, this approach in Montpelier will not change until voters elect real grownups who have actually accomplished something in their lives.

    Someone needs to confirm the following info that I received from an inside source. Has Vermont Entergy petitioned the NRC asking for permission that if they (Entergy) loses in Federal Appeals Court and/or after the ruling if Entergy wins and the Vermont PSB does not renew Entergy’s certificate of public good to operate, then Entergy wants the NRC blessing to immediately shut down the Vernon facility and moth ball it for fifty years? The Vernon plant would not be dismantled. It would be abandoned. The State of Vermont can not force Entergy to dismantle the plant as that falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the NRC. Because the plant is mothballed, Entergy does not have to contribute any more funds to the closing costs because the plant is in fact closed. Entergy then uses the income generated from the closing funds reserve under their jurisdiction for the next five decades leaving the actually cleanup for another generation to deal with.

    Let’s be brutally honest. Entergy knows how to play hardball. They have proven that Attorney General Bill Sorrell is incompetent. Revenge is the best dish when served onto the Vermont Legislaturecy icy cold who will run screaming and crying to Washington, DC for help on this one.

    Why is this possible scenario important to Brattleboro? If the Vernon Plant is mothballed for fifty years the real estate market in Brattleboro and Vernon will collapse. Brattleboro homeowners are going to get financially killed either way whether as a buyer or seller. Do you want to invest in an asset (a home) that is constantly decreasing in value because of property taxes? When your property tax liability in Brattleboro is more than your bank mortgage payments, things are really screwed up big time.

    I stand by my prediction made ten years ago on iBrattleboro that Brattleboro will be the first town in Vermont that will be forced into receivership in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Rutland. It will happen sooner rather than later.

    Consider yourself warned.

    • Perspective

      RLElkins — as a town meeting rep who knows very little about municipal finances, I appreciate this candid historical perspective very much, devoid of sarcasm. I am guessing that as you look around the state and the country and western civilization you are seeing that the problems that Brattleboro is confronting are far from unique; what do you attribute the larger economic situation to? Certainly it’s not Entergy, or democrats, or Peter Shumlin.

      • good analysis, it should be its own posting

        I don’t know if RLElkins is going to answer you, but this is something I have followed and I have seen a few other communities go broke or lose control of their school systems. Bridgeport and Hartford, CT come to mind. I can’t recall one as small as Bratt.
        No, Bratt is in a world of hurt. In the past, companies/business would close shop and mighty Brattleboro could absorb latest unemployed , they would find work elsewhere and life would go on. Byron Sprague, thats a nice trip down memory lane.
        I am encouraged by the urban renewal of Brooks House and the expansion of higher education. And the new waste water treatment. Perhaps these items can help can draw a new business to town. But the tax bills to be footed over the next few years, wow……

        As a town mtg rep, its a pity you don’t know much more about finance, did you vote for the fire/police improvements?
        I watched a portion of the town mtg where a member of the finance committee asked the same question a number of times and it was frankly incomprehensible to me. I thought i was nuts until the SB members that tried to answer this person said the same thing.

        • Bond Vote

          I voted for the original bond, but since have had second thoughts and Saturday voted for Pat DiAngeles’ amendment that would have struck $330,000 some from the budget — equivalent to the first year interest payment on the bond. I believe that the new selectboard got the message that the project should be reexamined, or at least thought through very carefully. A number of town meeting members I talked with believe the same thing, but thought the amendment was a bad way to achieve it.

          We may see a petition or something similar come out of this. Folks should get hold of the exact wording of the non-binding resolutions that were quickly and near-unanimously adopted at the end of town meeting — one addressing the bond, the other addressing the River Garden.

          • Resolution

            Here is the end of meeting resolution:

            That Brattleboro representative Town Meeting urges the Brattleboro Selectboard to carefully scrutinize the budget impacts of bonding and borrowing under the previously approved Police and Fire Facilities Project plan, prior to taking any final action on bonding or going out to bid on the projects, in order to find reductions in costs, if available, and to delay or modify all or part of the projects, as they deem appropriate, and having done so that they determine their position as to a recommended budget plan for the following years that will produce only modest total budget increases similar to the modest 1.9% budget increase achieved for this next year.

            The Phillips resolution

      • Think globally, act locally?

        It’s hard to not look at any town’s economic problems and not tie them to the global disorder. However, many times when any one posts on here a critique of what we don’t do well, locally, and might do better, it is suggested that all of our woes are tied to the larger economies. It would be interesting to know why some towns fare better than other similarly sized and structured towns. It has been my observation over 10 years that we don’t do what we might, before suggesting the national and global economic situations are to blame.

  • How to Transcribe Town Meeting

    Some have asked how I did this. It was easy, really. I watched the BCTV stream, and sat and typed all day.

    BCTV helped a lot by having subtitle with Reps names for most people speaking.

    I aimed to summarize, as best I could, each person’s main point. If I could get their exact phrasing, all the better.

    I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to have it go on for 12+ hours. Once you get going, though, you get pulled in. After a while there’s really no reason to stop.

    • Marathon Meeting

      Yea, it was a marathon. Shall we bring bandages and arnica salve for your fingers, Chris? Trying to concentrate and listen closely for 14 hours was, shall I say, a challenge. I think people’s level of exhaustion began to show towards the end when debate trailed off.

      All in all I was impressed by Lawrin Crispe’s first attempt at moderating. He was even-handed, on task, diligent, didn’t get provoked by the hot heads, and I bet is still recovering.

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