Selectboard Meeting Notes – Finances, Audits, Hydrology, and Grants

Brattleboro Selectboard meeting

The Brattleboro Selectboard took up FY18, FY20, financial audits, Whetstone hydrology, and many, many grants as part of their final meeting of 2018. January scheduling was also an issue that was resolved, sort of.

Comments | 7

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Kate O’Connor has no remarks except happy new year, since we won’t see you until 2019.

    Town Manager has nothing.

    David Schoales says school diversity committee met recently and is looking at college applications. Compassion Committee is working on arts and speaker’s programs.

    Tim Wessel notes the upcoming traffic safety committee mtg, to which the public is always invited.

    Nania is very sad to hear the update about Ms. Brown’s case. Tried as an adult as a child. Brattleboro should prevent people be treated like her. Also disappointed that the public isn’t welcomes to attend with signs outside the building. I have more but I hope SB takes more seriously more bike lanes, and address dilapidated buildings on Canal Street. The money exists to fix them, but it was spent on parking garage.

    Peter Nick Nickerson says he found another reason to encourage board and public to consider legalizing all drugs. (Applause by one…) We’re on the edge of increased automation. When truck drivers no longer have jobs, we’ll have a serious problem. People won’t pay their bills. Universal basic income, federal jobs… whatever it is we need to test it and see what works. Get the money from taxers on drugs.

    Nanya says there is an alternative currency using preexisting technology. A credit currency, to release us from federal government. They just take away more funding for everything we need. A credit currency switch should be taken seriously.

  • Grand List Errors & Omissions

    Errors and Omissions to the Grand List total $914, 599, dropping the grand Grand List total to $1,212,256,683.

    The “errors” came from a BCA hearing ruling, a failure to use a state formula for a housing subsidy, an error in a subdivision, and the addition of six Farm Tax Stabilization exemptions. Overall, there were 44 corrections to Business Personal Property files.

    This has been properly lodged with the Town Clerk, as state requires.

    Kate – you had $914, 599 subtracted out from the July Grand List, right (yes.)

    Shanta Lee Gander – what’s the thinking behind revaluations? Changes made by owners to buildings? Actual error and mistakes?

    Assessor – BCA made decisions after grand list was lodged. The subdivision was an error in the Assessors’ office. The subsidized housing was assessed properly, but a state method of assessing needs to take place instead because it is subsidized.

    David Schoales – do we get money from the state for the rest for that subsidized property? (No)

    Elwell – it’s valued differently and taxes are lower.

  • John O'Connor FY18 Audit Report and Single Audit + November Finances

    (Before departing, Assessor Jen says big license fees go up in January.)

    John O’Connor is pleased with the 2018 Financial Statements and Independent Auditor’s Report.

    No audit adjustments, nor were there any in the Single Audit.

    They did find that Brattleboro’s sub-recipient monitoring doesn’t meet national standards for Federal awards. Transactions could be mishandled by sub-recipients, it seems. In response, Brattleboro is now using a risk assessment tool.

    Nanya suggests the surplus of last year should indicate no need for the 1% LOST.

    David Schoales notes the audit says they did find that Brattleboro’s sub-recipient monitoring doesn’t meet national standards for Federal awards. Transactions could be mishandled by sub-recipients, it seems. In response, Brattleboro is now using a risk assessment tool. Can you tell us a recipient?

    O’Connor – KidsPLAYCE, Holton Home – we know little of their internal practices. The single audit is a list of all federal grants and expenditures against those grants. No material weakness here. All figures came back fine. Only thing was monitoring practices for some organizations.

    Kate – we’ve been doing the same thing or a while and haven’t been questioned before. Is this new?

    O’Connor – yes. we’ve monitored other organizations very well, like WWHT. Now more activity in other organizations.

    Elwell – agency that grants the money and enforces them monitor us very closely, and we comply with state agency. Auditors say even so, more robust oversight would be better, and we agree.

    Schoales – more than half of taxes usually goes to schools but this year it is 46%… curious about that? Pg 9 of independent report.

    November Financial Statements…

    With 41% of the fiscal year complete, the General Fund stands at 45.7% of the annual budget. Utilities are at 43.3% and the Parking Fund stands at 35.5%.

    Solid Waste revenues are at 37.9% and expenses are at 36.3%. Bag revenue, collection costs, and tipping fees get added a month later. You know that, right?

    Brattleboro has loaned out $4,390,300 and has $518,686 available for additional grants and loans.

    There are 37 active grants and 8 in development.

    “We’re in good shape.”

    Tim Wessel – confirmation that increase in investment income is from our better way to invest it? (Yes) On Misc revenue and police, that can be extra services?

    Elwell – that’s reimbursement by officer that didn’t meet terms of agreement with us. Prorating reimbursement!

    Tim – Page 9. Building repairs on Municipal Center is up quite a bit. What is it? $12k?

    Elwell – that’s construction around HR director’s office in former Planning Dept space.

    David – have we finished all state requirements?

    Elwell – no. First two phases done – fire alarms, and sprinklers. Third phase is more complicated – stairway doors, floor holes – and can be postponed while we looked at full renovation of this building. Given that, we need to touch back to the state on this work. Hoping to be able to do fixes when building is renovated.

    Tim – supplemental staff for police dept?

    Elwell – contractural funding paid to sheriff’s office. We supplemented our staff under contract. That person is now a Brattleboro police officer.

    Tim – where does that typically get paid out.

    Elwell – we’ll see it staff salaries and overtime. Outside overtime is contracted overtime – at construction sites or events. We do almost none of it. Didn’t have the officers for it.

    Nanya – Loan late payments?

    O’Connor – are from a local business. Happy Holidays everyone!

  • FY20 Budget Summary

    Elwell – board has met 6 times and has been all the way through the budget. You decided to make certain changes:

    – adding $56,250 in rental housing inspection fees.
    – adding $50k for rental housing inspection overtime.
    – increasing a transfer by $15k from the Utilities Fund from $275k to $290k
    – added $5,000 for BCTV funding
    – Eliminate Climate Protection funding ($10k) – question for RTM
    – increased downtown organization funding from $78k to $80k.

    This will reduce the FY20 budget by $26,250 when all is said and done. As this stands, property taxes would rise 2.7% (3.46 cents) to raise a total of $15,274,902. (If adopted in this form, and it passes as is…)

    Approved for the Representative Town Meeting warning by the selectboard:

    – 1% Local Option Sales tax (could raise $630k)
    – Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vt and NH ($12,200)
    – KidsPLAYce ($4k)
    – Climate Protection ($10k)
    – SeVEDS ($25k)

    In addition, Town staff want to put the issue of a new police station carport, roof works, and alarm system for fire dept (using remaining bond funds) on the agenda. More details January 8.

    Remaining meetings – no unfinished business, so budget topics for January will be…?

    Kate – when is day we’re voting on this… Jan. 22?

    Elwell – need to finish by 22nd at the latest, so a week later you’d vote on it.

    Kate – One thing is we need budget and we also need the numbers on what this will mean to homeowners.

    Elwell – we can have bond discussion on Jan 8th – we can bring updated budget to you then, too.

    Kate – when we see it we might think of something.

    Tim – I’d love to see that. How complicated will it be? Some items are up to town mtg to approve – one would have major impact – can we see the potential of the 1% local option sales tax. That radically alters impact to homeowners. Can that be included? Noted?

    David S. – show if it passes and those numbers on a different page.

    Kate – when we did it last year we had them outside earth main budget, and we had a sheet explaining what happens if things are voted and approved.

    Elwell – we have that list. Last year had larger dollar amounts. Sidewalk plow was more than a penny on taxes. These amounts are smaller, but we can do a summary and show implications of each decision to be made.

    Shanta – I’ll want to revisit ways to get feedback from town residents on bulky items removal. For next year? How to we think of adding that service? It’s a burden.

    Kate – first thing on next year’s list.

    Elwell – like the sustainability position… that might come up next year.

    Nanya – what is DBA and RTM?

    Elwell – RTM is representative town meeting – and DBA is downtown brattleboro alliance, the downtown merchant and property owner organizations.

    Nanya – with property tax increase do yo tax those above poverty level?

    Elwell – state has income sensitivity program – based on household income you can be exempt from property taxes, and there is other partial tax relief. Your exact concern.

    Schoales – only for school side. State only allows education side.

    Nanya – state can adjust taxes but towns can’t?

    Elwell – yes – state runs the income sensitivity program.

    Franz Reichsman – when can others get the new adjusted documents.

    Elwell -The first week of January – maybe late this week. Definitely first week of January.

    Tim – DBA doesn’t impact taxpayers bottom line – we collect and pass thru downtown merchants and property owner’s mini-tax. We approve it, but they get it.

    Elwell – it’s embedded in the property tax line. In July, we show the portion coming from the district.

    Tim – it shows up as expense in operating budget.

    Elwell – not separate line of revenue – it’s in property tax, then it comes out. It could be a separate line item.

    Tim – More obvious that it comes in and goes out again. And, the schedule – my schedule has a conflict because I thought we had first and third Tuesdays – first is New Year’s, so I thought we’d shift it, then be on the 22nd. But we’re having special mtg in the 8th, and second on 15th? Can we space them better? 8th and 22nd?

    David – the 15th is our regular mtg.

    Shanta – I’d be open to it.

    8th and 22nd! and end of month to approve warnings.

    Tim – we don’t have to decide tonight.

    Elwell – if you are going to cancel you should express your intent, but you might want to confirm with Brandie.

    Kate – definitely doing on the 8th.

    Elwell You could make tentative intent for 22nd.

    David – so we’d cancel the 1st and 15th, and do the 8th and 22nd?

    Kate – if something comes up we can do the 15th.


  • Whetstone Brook Hydrology

    Elwell – some modeling needs to be done to fill in a gap in our data. This is under existing contracts, so this request is to expand the contract. Good for trailer park and buildings downstream. New data with new measurements can be accurate to 1 foot, rather than every 20 feet. Very beneficial for a small amount of money.


  • Close Out for Bradley House grant

    Kate – 2016 CBDG Bradley House grant is done! Final hearing…

    Bradley House – Lee Madden – and Deb Able –

    Lee says Bradley and Holton are level 3 residential care homes – independent with some assistance. RN’s in each home. Rooms for 71 residents. We sent you a letter explaining how funds have been applied to our $5 million project. We added a new wing and renovated Bradley Mansion House – all rooms to current standards and high energy efficiency standards. Thank you, Town, for assistance. We invite you to visit both facilities.

    Kate – money already spent.

    Tim – I walk by and think it looks great.

    Kate – can we book our rooms?

    Lee – oversight of grants like this – we need to do annual audits starting this year,and can give that information to you.

  • Many Grants & Applications

    Grant Application for Dry Hydrant – Elwell says it increases fire protection in a needed part of town. Grant will pay for hydrant near new pond being dug.

    A dry hydrant is one that is not under pressure. Not a good name.


    Grant for Inter Library Loan Courier Grant

    Money to offset program costs.

    (Brandie Starr is out sick tonight. Of four board members, two are gone, so there aren’t enough to vote, so the remaining two and town manager make small talk.)


    Grant To Accept – Downtown Design Plan

    22k to help pay for downtown design plan.

    David – what will be designed?

    Elwell – a downtown master plan with some design suggestions. Follow up to Town Plan parking study. This is next step.

    Shanta – design plan? Not artists? Architecture, right?

    Elwell – this is intended to have functional and aesthetic aspects.

    Shanta – any space to engage artists in the area, or not that?

    Elwell – it’s a planning effort about functions and appearance of downtown.

    Shanta – so that could include artists… potential for community building

    Elwell – I don’t know of any plan to reach out to artists, but there will be public meetings

    Tim – perfect time for public to get involved asking for more bike lanes, river access, parking vs walkways downtown.

    Grant for Gov Highway Safety Program

    Elwell – $31k+ for occupant safety and related enforcement. Money coming through sheriff’s dept. We’re a sub-grantee. We like this better.


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