Selectboard Meeting Notes – FY22 Budget, Articles and Warnings Ready for Voters

Brattleboro selectboard jan 26 2021

A snowy evening, and a short meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard resulted in an approved budget for Representative Town Meeting members, an approved Town Meeting warnings.

Comments | 5

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Tim Wessel – we met at 5:15 to do committee interviews and an executive session.

    Peter Elwell – you announced the purpose of the executive session, and it was real estate matters, and some employee topic. We hadn’t anticipated ahead of time, so want to announce at this time that real estate and personnel were discussed.

    (Ian has changes to the minutes…)(they’ll approve at next mtg)

    Elwell – minor changes shown in strikeout published today… we’ll use that document for next week so you can see what changed.

    Tim – didn’t plan on any remarks, but it is a small town. There is someone a lot of us knew. Another community member took their own life. I’ll read a comment a friend made who was close to this person. Life is so unpredictable and you don’t know what others are going through. Depression is real and it costs nothing to be kind. The pandemic is tough on people and people should be talking about this all the time. Be kind. Appreciate others. 1-800-273-TALK is the suicide help line.

    No other comments or reports.

    Public participation –

    Millicent Cooley – I’m interested in making a suggested. It’s too late to have this warned and have a long discussion but want to bring it up so people are aware. That is, I suggest a new town committee for engagement and diversity. There is a longstanding issues with diversity. Complicated and needs dedicated focused work. Same with participation. Low voting rates. Locally we have a fantastic community, how can we bring new people in and get them involved? I want to mention the idea and have it discussed.

    Gary Stroud – Tim, my condolences. My daughter goes through depression and the support system is very important. tax season – what’s implemented for the new tax season. I called Daniel at SEVCA. Anyone know how that will be coming about for February?

    Daniel Quipp – SEVCA holds a program for income eligible folks for taxes. We did a bit during the pandemic last year. A pretty good service. Main office is in Westminster. The library might do this kind of work?

    Elizabeth McLoughlin – the library prints out tax forms for you and you can pick them up.

    Elwell -there are many services. The in-person options are going to be replaced by dropbox and curbside pickup. The agencies that deal with this have experience with it. This work went on once we were familiar with social distancing and wearing masks. I don’t know the details, but the same agencies should be able to help as before.

    Daniel – it is on the SEVCA website.. they’ll take care of you.

  • Approve Selectboard’s Recommended FY22 General Fund Budget for Consideration and Action at Representative Town Meeting

    Tim – this is the moment.

    Elwell – I’ll summarize the memo. There is a 19 page line item budget we’ve worked on for three months. Over 10 meetings to discuss. Tonight you have the updated 19 page budget with details. Only a few things have changes, and that’s what I summarized. Since proposed on November 3, there have been 4 changes to the expenditure, and one change to the revenue side. You increased Human Services budget by $66,061, increased street paving budget by $50,000, increased BCTV funding by $2,000, and level funded police training at $27,000 (-13k). The net impact is $105k, so the one change in revenues is an increase in taxes. This is a little less than a penny. After changes, the budget stands at 15,649,281-
    2.7% increase (3.60 cents) in the municipal property tax rate. About $36 per $100k of property value. Also, I should note that there were some things that didn’t make sense about labelling of line item and what it was spent on, and we adjusted some language, so the two changes are digital subscriptions at the library, and in parks budget we had an item for misc items. It will now be called program supplies.

    Daniel – so, we made some changes and it goes to RTM. If they don’t like these changes, what is the best process. If they disagree with our paving decision, for example?

    Elwell – RTM has authority over the warning and items with their own articles can be changed. Beyond that, the authority over the line item budget rests with the selectboard. For the largest expenses, if town meeting is not happy they could change them in bulk but could not make a binding line item change. RTM has increased the budget and pointed to aspect to tell you why they do it, and other times they cut it. The town meeting is specific it gives you guidance. Sometimes in the past, RTM has made arbitrary cuts and told the selectboard to figure it out. To keep taxes down. It can happen any one of those ways.

    Tim – I’m having computer issues, so…if I have issues…

    Ian – we’re about to vote on this so I’d take a moment to extend my gratitude to town staff for preparing the budget. We didn’t agree on everything and it has been a process but have been amazed at this entire process and have been grateful to be a part of it and look forward to voting for it.

    Tim – we do appreciate all the work that went in… am I breaking up? Any other comment about our budget?

    Approved 4-0 (Brandie absent)

  • Approve Town Meeting Warnings

    Elwell – so, the reason we have warnings plural is that we have one for the ballots voted for town meeting day election then several pages of RTM warning so I’ll say some summary comments. On the annual town meeting with ballots, there are 5 articles and some unusual things. The first is to elect officers – selectboard seats and also reps for RTM. Article 2 is the asking about retail cannabis, with the language the state requires to see if voters want or don’t want to have retail cannabis in town. Article 3 is the charter change amendment and it relates to self governance by allowing the town to make charter changes that already exist in other charters of Vermont. Needs legislative approval. Articles 4 and 5 are from the school district – Article 4 is whether Brattleboro wants a local school district, and Article 5 asks if Brattleboro will accept the decisions of the other district schools. That’s all I know…

    Liz – I wondered whether there will be an explanation on the ballot?

    Hilary Francis – we tend to not provide any explanatory statements about articles because we have to avoid bias in our explanation, so we explain the process, but not the meaning of questions.

    Liz – left to the press to provide info

    Hilary – media or organization or people campaigns, rather than from Town.

    Elwell – articles 2 and 3? It would be appropriate for the Town, you or me, to write an op-ed for newspapers and social media so we share the basis for why we brought this forward (Article 3). On the cannabis question, there will be advocates on both sides we should stay out of that one.

    Liz – yes, especially the town charter one cuz it is obscure.

    Daniel – I feel that the school decisions… the original ACT 46 vote – it was tough and I hope that people who have intimate knowledge of what it has been like will speak to that. It is tough to feel informed without that information. With retail cannabis, I do expect advocacy – the planning commission has an item about zoning related to that question. If you are interested it the zoning and locations for it, Monday’s meeting. I am not neutral on this, but I think it is really important for our town and people should get informed.

    Ian – Peter, so for Article 2 and 3 the town put them forward so it is up to us to make it clear why we are voting, but 4 and 5 are the school…

    Elwell – yes to 4 and 5 – that’s for the school system to speak to. 2 and 3 are different. Article 2 came to you is because it places it before the community – if the community says no, it goes away. If they say yes, there are issues such as planning. As a government we will defer to individuals to put info out. On article 3 is about the governance of the town and comes from years of work we’ve done, and there is information we are compelled to share.

    Ian – glad I asked. So, it has been used twice – Town with a capital T – as someone who cares about language I find article 4 misleading. I’ll read it “shall the voters authorize the Town…” – that refers to the town of people, not the town governing structure.

    Elwell – yes, the question is about whether community will stay or leave. We use different language that the schools, to make the distinction between Town and town.

    Tim – article 4 and 5 are big questions and I don’t know how I’d vote on those. We are charged with just passing them along. Ian makes a good point. It is an odd position for us to be in. I hope someone listening is ready to ramp up quickly with information for voters. If I don’t get information I might say no.

    Daniel – a burden of proof sort of thing. If you want things to change you have to say why.

    Elwell – unless you need to do them separately, we can do both warnings together. The other warning is multiple articles for RTM – to appoint people, hire auditors, appoint library trustees, then money articles – Article 10 looks backwards to replacing salt shed and animal control officer vehicle. Article 11 is also unusual – funding for water treatment facility. We’ll have info in the town report for reps on this and other issues. Lots of info for the water treatment plant to share. Voting will be Australian ballot (mailed out to town meeting members and mailed back within 5 days). Going on, normal annual articles of funding parts of the budget. Then we get to Article 19 – it’s unusual – the request to get guidance about funding for human services. From there on to Article 23 it is normal budget items, the budget, and the final vice articles only come up so often – they are requests from five properties for tax exemption from town taxes. Final article is any other business – RTM can make nonbonding guidance.

    Daniel – the informational session for water treatment plant – open to anyone in town? (yes) and it will be virtual (yes)

    Elwell – three virtual informational sessions and the virtual RTM.

    Daniel – even if not an RTM Uber you can attend and ask questions

    Elwell – we anticipate March 3rd for the water treatment info mtg, March 10 for the general informational meeting, and then March 13th a technology test run particularly for new members or those wanting a refresher. First two open to anyone in the public. The dates will be proposed officially next week, but you can pencil these in.

    Tim – the loudest plow just went by – the road grader.

    Ian – considering how important the town report is every year and will be on computers, could it be a smart PDF document?

    Elwell – in the spirit of making them more useable, yes a good idea, but we are printing it now. Need to put this out. It won’t be a smart document, but those who don’t mind the thick document, we will be doing a full printing run and get a contactless pickup for those who want them. Use it the old fashioned way. It lends itself way.

    Ian – sorry to have asked over the deadline.

    Daniel – apologize to Jan, too.

    Tim – I need the big book, to see and put it on the shelf.

    Liz – or use as a booster seat.

    Hilary – just hear in case you have questions.

    Liz – I have that motion…

    both warnings approved 4-0 (Brandie absent)

  • COVID Emergency Outbreak Testing and Vaccination Administration Funds

    Ratify Town Manager’s Decision to Accept and Appropriate this Grant

    Elwell – we ask you to ratify a decision I made about a grant. This is one we learned about mid January that the firefighters and other people with emergency medical expertise are eligible and requested by the VT dept of health to strengthen their forces in brining out the vaccine. They look for help for greater capacity in testing and vaccination. They wanted to know right away. We have employees interested in providing support to the state, so we leaped on it. There’s $100k reimbursement for costs we’ll incur – employees will be paid by us then reimbursed by state, plus some additional money for administrative costs. That’s what I approved on your behalf to move quickly. Asking you to ratify this decision.

    Tim – is this a time limited arrangement? Or many months?

    Elwell – $100k can take a bit of time to use up. If that becomes an issue, the state will allocate additional funds, I’d anticipate. This is to leap into action. If there is a deadline I don’t know it.

    Tim – I’d imagine it is open-ended. There is a J&J vaccine coming that is a one shot. That could open floodgates. Potentially exciting.

    Liz – I want to applaud your action – state and town coordination. The virus is more prevalent and more deadly, but get ready for the vaccine.

    Daniel – yes – I agree. There is probably not 75 year olds watching that don’t know – as of yesterday you can register with the state to get shot scheduled. health department’s website, and a phone number. Call 211, they will sort you out.

    town manager’s decision on covid emergency funds approved – 4-0

  • Committee Appointments

    Tim – one more task ahead of us.. committee appointments. Anyone want to articulate a leaning we had during interviews.

    Liz – I’d like us to wait a week before we make decisions about energy committee since one was not available for interviews.

    Tim – agreed… so, we have one.. should we address the issue of the planning commission then a slate for the others? We have two people for one vacancy on the Planning Commission. Nominations?

    Liz – I nominate Daniel Handy(?)…

    Daniel – I nominate Gary Stroud.

    Tim – a raise of hands for Daniel Handy – 4 and for Gary – 2… Congratulations, Dan. Energy Committee will be for next week. How about a slate for Development Review Board Alternate and Senior Solutions Advisory Council.

    Daniel – for DRB alt – Daniel Handy, and for Senior Solutions Donna Jacobs.

    Tim – I’m unclear whether Dan wanted to be considered for both..

    Daniel – be careful when you apply for multiple things.

    Elwell – vote for him then we can ask him, or you could wait and let us ask first. Up to you.

    Tim – we can appoint him. He seemed qualified for both.

    Nominations approved! 4-0 (Brandie absent)

    Tim – alright, clumsy but we got it done. Any other business?

    Liz – move to adjourn..

    Tim – at 7:24

    Daniel – what will I do?

    Ian – let’s stay on!

    Liz – eat dinner..


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