Selectboard Meeting Notes – Safety and Spending

brattleboro selectboard sept 14

The Brattleboro Selectboard is easing into budget season while wrestling with the safety of retuning to in-person meetings. They got an update on the Water Treatment Plant upgrade, paid for some emergency repairs, gave out a liquor license, and discussed Town Manager Elwell’s final Long Term Financial Plan.

There was more safety – there will be new stop signs coming to some corners, a discussion of ARPA fund possibilities was quick, and a discussion of blinking crosswalks took quite a while.


Comments | 10

  • Preliminaries

    Pre-meeting banter about haircuts. And Sue being Steve. And a Boy Named Sue.

    Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin has no remarks. other than it has been a busy day looking for a new Town Manager.

    Town Manager Elwell has no remarks.

    Daniel Quipp says the Traffic Safety Meeting is coming up Thursday. Public welcome.

    Public Participation –

    Kurt Daims – hello Madam Chair. Thank you as a Town meeting Rep I’m glad to see RTM is finally on the front page of the website. Long overdue and very very welcome. There is another branch of Town government. Now the resolution Brattleboro Common Sense brought about renewable energy in town buildings, it had another part, that renewable electricity be used in people’s homes. It’s a substantial action for RTM to take, and a serious move for people to take and that should be on the home page of the web page. I hope you can do that.

    Air 1120 – Michael Rothberg – I want to talk about the noise ordinance. We have a noise oridicnace and one subsection is a firearms. In western Brattleboro, if you use a gun for target practice your neighbor can call the police on the noise being made, or if your dirt bike is too loud, leaf blower is too loud… the police have more important things to do. It seems a bit controlling about rights… Vermont already have rules about when guns can be fired, except here in Brattleboro. It’s just a blanket statement. It seems to go against the Vermont constitution.

    Tim Wessel – there is the noise ordinance and then there is a disarms of firearms ordinance. I saw a map once. How do those things overlap? I can look into it.

    Liz – it isn’t a warned item. The Town Manager can look into it.

    Daniel Quipp – a member of the public could get this as a warned item by doing….??

    Peter Elwell – when an item is requested of the board, the Chair and Vice Chair decide whether to warn it, and if they agree to NOT warn it, it won’t go on the agenda. If they are split it goes to the full board to vote on. If they decide not to put it on, the other members are notified so they can bring it up.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Library Courier Grant – Accept and Appropriate

    B. Field to Fork Grant – Authorize Application

    C. Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistant Grant – Ratify Decision to Apply

    D. VLCT’s Annual Business Meeting – Appoint Town Manager Elwell to be Brattleboro’s Voting Delegate

    E. Heating Oil Contract for 2021-2022 – Bid Award to Discount Oil of Keene, NH


  • Liquor Commissioners - The Collective

    Elwell – the application is for a first class liquor license, third class, and entertainment license. It is where Metropolis was. They’ve been open for a while with mocktails. Staff had reviewed this and it is in order ready for your approval.

    Kate Barry – thanks. We’re hoping to bring back a space there an homage to what it used to be as a wine bar. We have mocktails and providing good food in an accessible, low key lounge. We’d like to have weekly open mike night, karaoke. No funk night or metal night. It’ll be small things. Low key, and a spot where you can go after 9 pm and hangout. Food to go. If you get out of work after 9, you can get something to eat. I’m Kate and have been in food service my whole life. I managed the old Metropolis when it was open. Excited to bring it back. When we do add liquor license, we’ll still be mocktails… the main purpose is to hang out an hear music, meet up with friends, fun safe, clean.. not just drink.

    Marty Griffin – we want it to be a community space to discuss issues. I worked at Echo and Fireworks and at Whetstone. I’ve had good leaders. We want to build on that, celebrating community and being active in the community. We’ve had some soft openings on Gallery Walk – art, music, community as a whole.

    Ian Goodnow – I’m excited for a late night place.

    Kate – we hope it inspires other businesses to have more nightlife downtown. We can bring it back. A lot of people need a place to go. We can’t be the only space.

    Liz – is the name related to the Arts?

    Kate – it is the whole concept – a lounge before it is a bar. It speaks to being all inclusive and accessible. More art, more music, special event nights… that’s where the name came form.

    Daniel – I’m a non-alcohol drinker and like tasty things. I appreciate the mocktails – when will you open?

    Kate – hope to be 7 days a week. Hiring bartenders now. We pay $15/hr plus tips, which can be a couple hundred a night. We want someone who earns enough to stay. Keeping people employed in a sustainable way – we’d like to offer more benefits in coming years. Needs to be sustainable.

    Daniel – I was in NY last week. They require proof of vaccination in some places… would you consider carding people for proof?

    Kate – we’re listening to state and local government. If you say so…

    Tim – thanks for bringing new life to a space many of us know and love.

    Kate – a great reception so far. Look forward to opening. We’ll start with wine. Mocktails, plus wine. People want to socialize. Slow and steady.

    Jessica Gelter – love that you worked locally and are now on your own. It was fun in there on Gallery Walk.

    approved – 1st, 3rd, and entertainment license.

  • Water & Sewer

    (a rare double by Jessica – out of liquor and into sewer in one motion!)

    A. Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Facilities Replacement Project – Status Report

    Christina Haskins – the contractor has begun work, in July. To date they have installed temporary piping and utilities so they can excavate and work around lagoons. Temporary electric connection made yesterday. Cabel and phone are temporarily reconnected. The concrete slab is done for the basin, and rebar has started for the walls. Will start building excavation next week. Want to get all pipes and grading done this year, then a shut down in December to wait for structural steel, then restart in April, pour the slab for the building, and build the new building. Done by Nov or Dec of next year. Probably in service by next fall. Paving and grass will be done in spring. Contractor is keeping us up to date weekly on supply chain issues – they are still on schedule. Every week they note that some people are walking or biking through the construction site to get to trails – we are asking people to stay out of the construction site. Public Works can help you. Stay out of the site. We’ll have heavy materials. It’s a safety issue.

    Liz – is their signage?

    Elwell – we’ll make sure there is. The site is secure but folks using the woods have been allowed. We may need to make it more clear while construction is underway. There are other beautiful spots on the hill up there.

    Christina – there are some signs, and more are going up. Construction Zone. DPW is getting some bigger signs.

    Elwell – Dan Tyler is nodding his head.

    Ian – one question – Oct 2022 is a substantial completion day, vs the 2023 complete completion date? Just the paving waiting til spring?

    Christina – substantial means all the work has been complete, except for final paving and grass growing, but the big part is that the finished product is operational and the town can use it, next fall, if there are no major delays. WE’ll have substantial completion and everything will be running as designed. We’ll make a punch list of remaining issues, we’ll shut down for the winter, and in the spring the contractor can finish up – for final completion.

    B. Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund – Authorize Application for Planning Loan

    Dan Tyler – we’ve been talking about doing this for a while – looking at our distribution system. This would get planning money to study the situation.

    Christina – as he noted, we’ve talked about it for a while now. We want to evaluate the distribution system, to help prioritize capital projects. This year, there are planning loans for hydraulic evaluations. To apply, we need to submit a planning loan application. 100% forgiveness with this program, so we recommend it. Dufresne Group did similar work for a tank replacement at Black Mtn. The proposed scope of work would include updating the current water model, asset management, and preliminary engineering report – the benefits of this would give us a complete asset management plan, including piping and valves. We’ll also have the preliminary engineering report that will inform us on future projects. The report will also help with annual and long range planning. WE’d submit the application, get approval by October, then begin the project late this fall into next year. If the 100% forgiveness has already been used up, you can put this work on hold until another grant arises.

    Liz – everyone would like 100% forgiveness. How much does the study cost?

    Christina – we asked for $100,000 n- we put the asset management in there. Let’s throw all of it in, and if all can be forgiven that would be great.

    Ian – I think I understand this setup, so a couple of assumptions – we’re trying to do this now so we can get a grant. If we do it now, the reevaluation would be done before the new water treatment plant. If we don’t get the grant we can delay it until after the facility is done and maybe we can get it for free. How much would the water model be impacted ted by the new water treatment facility – will it be obsolete in a year? Pennywise and fund foolish to do it this way?

    Christina – we are getting new pump information and pump curves for the new pumps and we can create the model using the future information.

    Elwell – that’s how this work would be done anyway – through a model so they can run scenarios on how we use the system.

    Jessica – Dan, if we get ambitious and tackle this now, will it set us up well for future water system projects?

    Dan – to help us make our capital plan, and it puts us in a better position. We have capital planning now, but it is based on historical knowledge. This would put it together and validate it.

    Jessica – it may have impacts on some of the older parts of our system?

    Dan – this will all be downstream from the new plant – we won’t change that. It’s just the new pumps. From the tanks down it isn’t a whole lot of difference.

    Loan application approved!


    C. Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Facilities – Ratify Emergency Purchase of Replacement Blower
    D. Retreat Wells – Ratify Emergency Pump Repair

    Dan Tyler – the first one is an expediter at the Pleasant Valley facility – the water filters backwash using two large air blowers to clean the media. One of these failed. They are critical infrastructure – we found a replacement, installed it, and got things back online. It cost just over $11k. The second expenditure was at the Retreat Wells – prep for the increased demand. We hired folks to refresh the wells to remove sediment and clean the pumps up. They discovered one well pump needed significant repairs. $18k.

    Jessica – where do the funds come from?

    Elwell – from the Utility Fund – same as if we came ahead of time to ask to do the work. The source is the same. Doesn’t negatively effect the budget, it is just the process by which it is approved.

    Ian – will the new facility use the same blowers?

    Dan – no – a different size – we won’t be able to use this, but we need one now.

    Liz – a double motion?

    (Tim makes another double motion – combining two purchases with one motion!)


    Elwell – we’re asking for a ratification due to the urgent nature of the work

  • COVID-19 Matters

    Liz – is a discussion needed? Further action to take at this time? Okay, let’s discuss hybrid meeting protocols.

    Elwell – you are all on zoom this evening, due to recent circumstances and reports from state and CDC, showing increasing infection, including breakthrough infections of vaccinated folks. A reasonable level of concern. You’ve based being in person for a meeting if public can be present. Right now, while you interview town manager applicants, and other town business in executive sessions, the combination has lead to a number of hours being based and distanced at the selectboard room. For these regular meetings, we want to make sure we are accessible to the public, so the physical meeting place remains the selectboard meeting room. Someone can go there and participate. One thing about you returning there – the board could be there and encourage the public on zoom – you should consider the limited capacity of the public in that room. if there is a lot fo attendance, there is a potential to shut down a meeting if it is too crowded and reschedule for a bigger space. Some of you feel you should meet in the meeting room, so.. I wanted to share that one logistical matter – there is a smaller number of total people we can accommodate at the meeting room, unlike normal times.

    Liz – let’s take a read of how we might feel

    Daniel – on the fence – it won’t be helpful. From a safety pint of view, zoom is the safest for everyone. We can’t hold a zoom-only meeting. It’s no longer a state of emergency. Folks can go to the meeting room. It is safer to do it from home. Whether it is better… working in the same room makes me happier, but is my happiness more meaningful than the communities safety – probably not. Everyone on the board is vaccinated, and vaccinations work. if we go back to zoom, we’ll we every get off zoom. We met from 7:45 to mid afternoon today. There were benefits of being in the same space. Less rigid, more connected. The impacts of being away are real, but ideas and illness are real. Trying to balance things. I want things to be safe. I would think people will use zoom if they don’t feel safe. So, I’m a little on the fence. Two weeks ago I’d say I’d want to be back, but I read graphs – the cases are up, but hospitalization is down – vaccinations are working.

    Tim – That was helpful. I was urging us to get back together, but I can see other points of view. My son’s daycare was shut down for a couple of positive cases. It’s out there. It’s an endemic thing we have to absorb into our lives of the many dangers and risks we take. Remaining in a closed space feels like pushing the odds. I’d like to be hybrid in September, but would love to try to look at the numbers – it is important and easier for us to meet together in person. We have a meeting next week as well, so it is premature to try to do it next week, but really October could be our goal.

    Jessica – I was going to be in favor of meeting in person – it was great to be in the same space with you. Better than screens. But where we are at… the case numbers aren’t there yet for full unperson meetings. When we can do an executive session in person we could do that. I value being in person with you guys, fo me, as someone who processes communication better in a physical space with people.

    Ian – thanks, board. Liz and I set the agenda and I thought it important to get to the board to discuss. I’m in favor of staying on zoom while we go through this spike. But it is important that we meet in person, and we’ve been tasked with doing town business the best way we can, and in person is the best way to do it, so this discussion is important. So, happy to have the discussion now. We should check in on this more often, and we can watch the numbers to move back to in-person. So, thanks.

    Liz – I recognize that Daniel got to the heart of the matter – to be in person vs risk to public health. As much as we want to be in person. When the numbers get to the point where we all feel more comfortable and can be in person with the public. I don’t think that 64% of Windham Co residents being vaccinated is a high number.

    Daniel – and this bugs me, when asked about it – the data we’re working with is county level, and VT Digger does cases counts by towns once a week. Brattleboro had more than usual, and Vernon went up. The governor’s rational for us not being able to enact a mask mandate was that we have 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated – we don’t have that data. I’d like to have access to it. We can’t make good decisions without good data. I’m kinda mad about it. We’ve been let down by the state in this regard.

    Liz – I don’t like the governor’s office saying we’re making emotional decisions. Windham County numbers – we are the county hub – we get visitors from the county, and NH, and MA, and NY, and CT and that’s the type of town we are and we’re not alone.

    Tim – they don’t come to the selectboard meetings

    Elwell – Vernon and Brattleboro – it was driven by an outbreak at a facility in Vernon. I’ll go out on a limb – there is consensus on this – we’d rather be in person, but not the right thing to do right now. So, going forward – there will be a time when you feel it is right, so, since we meet next week, then two weeks after the, then maybe we check on this on Oct 5.

    Tim – I urge fellow board members – thousands of parents are sending their kids into a situation nt dissimilar to this – many are sending kids into an unknown situation. The experience of being in school is more important than the small risk of their kids getting sick. These decisions are being made every day. Classes are being quarantined. If you are a parent, you are in the front lines, so I urge the board to be brave, too.

    Liz – it makes me feel the opposite – why do we have to add to all the bravery going on? Why not stay out of the fray and keep safe until things calm down.

    Tim – it shows solidarity with essential workers and it is low risk, and similar to sending kids off…

    Liz – we had such nodding agreement before, so let’s keep it that way.

    Daniel – if we feel like we can move on from this… the executive order says changes in public health measure shall require approval of the governor. WE couldn’t enact a requirement for vaccinations, but it is a really good idea, and given we have high vaccinations, I want to go have dinner and feel safe, and staff to feel safe, so if we could enact such a thing, we should, but I’d encourage our local bars and restaurants to give it a try. I’d wholeheartedly support places requiring proof of vaccination – bars and restaurants already have people at the door. I just want our community to be safe. Remember before vaccines, and when it would be your turn? It doesn’t mean nothing. Vaccines provide vaccinations, and I want to take advantage of it.

    Liz – I’d rain that – when people come to a potential meeting, no one asks them anything about anything – members of the public are invited to the meetings, and that should play into the planning of meetings.


  • Dillon's Rule requires this kind of granularity in a T

    Dillon’s Rule requires this kind of granularity in a Town’s ordinances:


    16-70. Stop Signs. The following intersections shall have stop signs which shall direct vehicles to
    1) Abbott Road at Ames Hill Road
    2) Abbott Road at Greenleaf Street
    3) Akley Road at Hinesburg Road
    . . .
    Read moe:

  • Traffic Safety

    i.) Ordinance Amendment to Add Stop Signs on Guilford Street and South Street
    ii) Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) at the Fairview Village Crosswalk

    Elwell – the ordinance amendment is because we can only enforce stop signs where the town places them. We placed two trial stop signs near Guilford Street, north and south, at the entrance to Guilford street. It has made the entry to the park and music center noticeably more safe, so we’re asking that you approve this ordinance change to make the stop signs permanent. At the most recent meeting, we were asked to put in a stop sign where there was a yield sign, near West Brattleboro fire station – South Street and South Street intersection – we’ll rename that someday – we want to change the yield sign to a stop sign. It will help with movement through the intersection. There are more pedestrians now with the Chalet project, and so on. This is a first reading tonight – if you want to move forward we’ll do a second reading and public hearing in October. I’ll stop there.

    Daniel -there was great consideration of these locations – both sensible things that the Traffic Safety Committee recommends.

    Jessica – as a newbie, are stop signs always an ordinance? In every town in Vermont?

    Elwell – yes, in all towns in VT. State statutes require that such placement, and parking regulations in great detail and measurements, all is required and we adhere to it.

    Ian – I was going to ask the same question… another newbie question. If I go to the code of ordinances, it would read all stop signs in Brattleboro?



    Ian – I did not know that.

    Elwell – I can’t resist talking about Dylan’s rule – when we pushed the legislature for a little more home rule in recent years, this was an example we cited. People were dismissive… just a little thing. It’s what it represents that the parental governance of the state of Vermont requires us to do it, and everything we do. Every time we have to find something in the statute to allow us to do it. Can’t be more nimble… not the best way to govern communities, but it is what we have here in Vermont.

    Elwell – the RRFB

    Daniel – rapid rectangle flashing beacon!

    Elwell – we’ve used them. For the first time we’d like to use one not on a gateway street like others – it increases safety, and tells drivers coming on RT 9, 5, 30 that you are coming to a congested area and slow down. Here, we are talking about Fairview Street. It’s not on an entry way, but will serve the purpose of protecting youth and elders who cross every day – from north side of Fairview to the Market 32 plaza. IT’s a sharp downhill curve for cars coming down – it is a chronic speeding problem. We think an RRFB will help people crossing there by passing the button to indicate to drivers there is someone using the crosswalk. Doesn’t require an ordinance. This is a change of policy since this is a different type of location, not on a main entry to town.

    Ian – since this is a change of policy, can you speak to the policy about light pollution… I run there and it is a mixed commercial zone and residential. If we are doing a policy change – what about light pollution.

    Elwell – we got a complaint from a homeowner at one location, and had meetings, and it the end it was installed. We have not heard about the potential for ongoing light pollution. They flash only when crossing, then they go dark again. Streetlights are brighter.

    Jessica – any consideration to moderating the lighting so they stay off homeowners property…

    Liz – I think they are shielded…

    Daniel – the Traffic safety Committee made a decision and this is before us. WE had complaints from elderly people who felt they could cross the the shopping plaza – in winter it is dark early. The speed limit is 25… it’s hard to stay that slow. Lots of kids near there. The minor concern about light is vastly outweighed by the benefit to public safety.

    Tim – when I was on the committee, someone came to us with a complaint. I suggested a baffle and the problem went away.

    Ian – to be clear here, I’m not questioning the committee decision. Peter said there is a policy change, so in the future… we should at least discuss it. Not questioning the decision of the committee – just worth discussing the policy change and can do it in other locations.

    Daniel – one location with an RRFB is on the corner of Belmont and Canal street. That is a residential area, there is risk to pedestrians crossing the road… they aren’t in out of the way places. One is near the Retreat. One is somewhere else. There is already some potential impact and we don’t hear about it because they are good for the safety of the town. Light pollution from there’s is not equivalent.

    Elwell – the degree to which this is a problem – current ones mostly are in view of residences. Near pedestrians. We pay attention to the safety, and can work with people if it bothers them for some reason.

    Liz – I think they are wonderful. You could be waiting for a very long time and cars won’t stop. You press a button and magically the traffic stops. Brattleboro has reduced light pollution by removing streetlights when possible.

    Jessica – yes, I support this. We use that crosswalk regularly. Light pollution definitely impacts residences and they want input on it. The flashing light on Oak and High street got lots of conversations.

    Tim – there is always one thing on the agenda that you don’t know will take a half an hour.

    Ian – I just wanted to talk about the policy, Pedestrian safety needs to be a number one priority.

    Jessica – are we talking about the bare for using this tool, what is the bar that says yes or know?

    Elwell – they are safety action requests – we do a staff report on what we know, and then Traffic Safety Committee discusses with the person who asked for it, and sometimes the neighborhood. Mostly it is the people making the request. The ways those things turn out? The outcome is educational for everyone involved. We learn from the concern, and we can help them understand the way we can or cannot intervene. Sometimes the thing being asked for is not a proper action. Sometimes we’re asked to put something in or do something that won’t solve the problem. So we talk about what we can do to address the concern if we can, or sometimes we can’t do anything 1/3 get implement as requested, the rested get a different action or know action.

    Daniel – sometimes is a speed study of the road. It is common for people to think people are speeding, but the data often shows people are mostly following the speed limit. Glad we had this deep dive. Come to the meeting this Thursday at 8 am, zoom or in person.

    Gary Stroud – hey good evening everybody. The light caught me off guard, but they have them in Keene – I saw the flashing light and I slowed down. I’ll probably be at the Traffic Safety meeting. Maybe at night the crosswalks could glow? It’s not well lit at night. Some people come zooming. People make up their own crosswalks, on Elliot. Some places we could map out. How it will be maintained?

    Elwell – they cost about $8k each and there isn’t much upkeep. They are solar powered. Over the long haul they will require replacement.

    Dan – they are solar. Out of 7 we had to replace one battery and one computer panel, because it got hit. The oldest is 6 years old.

    Gary – can’t put a price tag on safety. best to implement these around school areas, in the morning, when people have coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other, racing to work.

    Liz – have a motion, have a vote, have a break…

    Move to approve the installation!


    Break until 8:15

  • Long Term Financial Plan – FY23 to FY27

    Elwell – The LTFP is not a budget, it is a five year forecast to prepare and review win advance of the budget process so we can make current year decisions in the longer term perspective. Sustainable, by looking at things that are problem areas… this year no real problems to work on. One example early on was in employee benefits and save the town hundreds of thousands a year – we looked at the longer term trends. Another example was worker’s comp – we beefed up some procedures to make things more stable. No increases in recent years. We can f=do that problem solving with long term planning. We can also look for opportunities – longer terms goals and when we can do them. An example is the long term effort to get to a million in capital work, then a goal of $1.5 million. This year, the falling of of debt service means we can accelerate our commitment to capital. If we do that, we can have more flexibility with capital in the future. We have a long list of needs. We’re doing better, and starting to fund it by catching up. We can accelerate that without a spike in the tax rate, based on the forecast in front of you. The overall goal of the LTFP – we want to keep stable taxes over time. If we don’t plan, it will happen. If we plan, we can help taxpayers by increasing slowly and steadily rather than wild swings. You see that in this LTFP on page 2 in the center of the page. The tax increases here are not small… there are years where it could have been smaller. Now, we don’t have to put as much into capital and address other financial needs, and keeping rates less that 3% and less that 4 cents on the tax rate. That’s the essence.

    Have our forecasts been accurate? There is real value, but I didn’t know….what’s interesting is that the way we did forecasting, if you account for the positive impact of new revenue through the LOST (1% tax), we land almost exactly where we want to. Even our old forecasts. Some years are off a bit – the sidewalk snowplow year when we bought that with cash. Let me pause. That’s why we do this and how it has turned out. Questions?

    Jessica – one question, about property assessment. When that comes around, and how the current housing market will impact it.

    Elwell – beyond my expertise but we’ll get an answer. There will be a town wide reappraisal in the next few years. There will be advance notice and planning. It will impact the distribution of tax income to be fair again… typically what happens is about 1/3 land where they are – about the same proportion of tax as before. 1/3 will come out ahead, and 1/3 will pay a bigger tax bill. That’s the purpose – to rebalance and start again. How recent value increase will impact that, I don’t know.

    Ian – are doing LTFP standard, or is it something you did and the next town manager will not understand?

    Elwell – people will bring the tools that work for them. It is a tool that is important, it is a financial best practice, and was useful in the last job in a different community, for different reasons. Brattleboro hadn’t been doing financial planning and projects planning was.. we were borrowing to buy vehicles and spending money on short term interest was a habit we had gotten into. We were falling behind on our needs. We turned that ship around. We have a 25 year plamn. We buy fire engines with cash. We put it aside and earn interest, rather than borrow and pay interest. This wa critically important to do here in the early years here to establish good habits. You’ll decide if this is important to continue, maybe there’s something better. I don’t know.

    Jessica – looking at the LTFP, there isn’t structural change – how is the LTFP a tool to support the conversations?

    Elwell – we haven’t done that as well. At the other job, we did it a bit better – showing policy choices and impacts. Here, we anticipate a relatively steady as we go manner. We needed to get costs under control. We do look at large policy goals, but don’t do well about getting granular about changes to programming. We do trends rather than choices.

    Elwell – continuing on, some highlights. We mentioned the impact of the LOST 1%.- we estimated $630k a year. It was too low. First year was over $800k and the next year over $900k. We can up what we expect it to yield. Rooms & Meals declined and stayed down – two years of COVID impact. We try to be conservative, so we expect this to slowly come back. It will bounce back, but we can’t know how fast that will happen. If it comes back fast, great. In the interest of time I won’t mention everything… we don’t forecast any use of fund balance. That’s important because we should always have a surplus. We try to stay over $2-400k. Sometimes, it is substantially higher, and we owe an explanation… so we aren’t collecting more taxes than we need. Anyway, we often have a surplus. In any given year we can look at excess fund balance that is useful, for one time expenditures. If it becomes something for recurring expenses, it becomes painful. We usually put fund balance toward capital work. Last year we decided to use some fund balance for a recurring expense – website upgrade and community input – it came from the fund balance and won’t be a recurring expense. It’s a project cost. That’s a key way we anticipate landing in a better place that predicted. But we assume zero fund balance in the forecast.

    We have a placeholder for possible employee salary increases – it is a collective bargaining year. We have a $200k placeholder.

    And, we note here like the last two years, the annual departmental expenditures – assigned to a particular department that isn’t personnel – this started as an area of slow growth over my years. The last two years, storm water related expense have gone up. It is increasing exponentially. You’ll hear more next week about the stormwater utility creation. We forecast that the additional commitment to stormwater management is an increasingly significant burden to the town. It needs our attention and is getting our attention.

    One last thing – it is clearer and clearer about how we might move forward with the Municipal Center… for this we assume doing nothing. There are major policy decisions to be made. Then we can talk about those decisions within the context of the forecast, but costs for the next five years are assumed as is, for now.

    Daniel – the sales tax numbers – retail cannabis local option sales tax that will come from that will – the conservative predictions – it will likely increase in a not insubstantial way, so yea!

    Liz – Tim – you are representing us and other towns?

    Tim – yes, for the next meeting I’ll give an update. It is rapidly moving and fluid. The arguments about towns getting a piece of the revenue pie is not over. There is some support. I’m trying for it still, even though the legislature has pooh poohed this.

    Liz – look forward to it.

    Tim – on page 2 – the local options sales tax. I still get comments in local shops. I say show me the evidence your business has suffered. Brattleboro hasn’t collapsed into the rive, and over a million in non-taxpayer revenue. Rooms and Meals dipped, but not as much as we thought. And the last thing – employee contributions to premiums is a pilot program we started. The insurance costs are 13.2% of our budget and it goes up every year. I’m supportive of discussing raising the employee contribution. Some of our wages aren’t where they should be, but our health care options are very generous. We should have a robust conversation about raising contributions.

    Liz – the timing of this presentation is important, allowing us to take a deep view right before we do the fall budgeting process. A really good place to start. Okay. What’s next?

  • American Rescue Plan (ARPA) Funding – Update

    Patrick Moreland – It’s not going to work work work work, Hold on a sec sec sec sec…

    Kurt Daims – On an unpleasant note, we still have climate change, but haven’t changed our long term fiscal plan to reflect it. It hasn’t changed accordingly. Everyone recognizes the growing threat, but the way we prepare has not changed. How about an emergency authorization for climate? Money for a rainy day.

    Patrick Moreland – lets give this a try try try, one more time, time, time, time….

    Elwell – come to my office…

    Moreland – this time it is going to work, work work…

    Tech problems and echos….

    Moreland – all better. Sorry. Just learned something. ARPA funding. There has been some changes and updates that you should know about. last time we talked was in June, and there was a rub between VT and the treasury – guidance from the Feds makes it hard to fund county level government. It got resolved in August. Funds for municipalities and for counties will go to municipalities. We know it will be $3.4 million, in two payments of about $1.7 million each. We got the 2021 already, in the bank. There are four categories of spending : to respond to COVID public emergency or negative economic impacts, premium pay to essential workers, funding government if services if revenues dropped (the parking fund), of investments in water, sewer, or broadband. States and municipalities can be funded to do what they do, with some flexibility. We’ve also learned that there are strict obligations – the reporting of the use of the funds. If Brattleboro uses the funds, no problem. We can do the reporting. If we fund someone else, we’d need to report on what we funded, and on what they did with it. They want to track how they get used. Easy if it us spending on us. We do have some time. The obligation is that we must obligate the funds by the end of 2024, but don’t need to be spent until 2026. It makes sense to wait for the final guidance, due in December or January. Then we’ll have fiull and complete guidance. Questions?

    Liz – I’m glad we have this time. The state has received money and have initiatives that will impact Brattleboro. It is important for us to be patient and see how it all shakes out

    Tim – When you say…parking would be a no-brainer use of these funds. Are you suggesting we wait on that, too?

    Patrick – yes, it is an obvious use. They have formulas for showing our lost revenue, so we could do that more quickly. But no problem waiting til January.

    Elwell – I suggest that it be the first use – we all know we suffered a loss and we can calculate it. The transfer to parking would be an important first step. There would be 6 months of the fiscal year left in January, then decide what to do with the rest of the money.

    Daniel – the funds have a name and acronym… slupfra – but ARPA will stick. Water and Sewer investments are a use. We could take on less debt using some of this money, then maybe make an equivalent investment in something we’ve never done before with general fund money. If we reduced costs of borrowing, it could result in lower taxes, but we agreed to borrow that money, it would be nice to get something exciting out of it.

    Ian – an annoying question – how do we define revenue? For example, our revolving loan fund – we give money out and it comes back in, is that revenue? Could that loss money be reimbursed with ARPA? Or is it more ordinary ways to identify revenue?

    Patrick – not annoying question – are you asking if it was possible to replenish defaulted loans?

    Ian – yeah, I guess. Or in other ways?

    Patrick – probably no, off the top of my head.

    Liz – COVID-related loss in a loan?

    Tim – the town helps people live through COVID – feds help alleviate pressure on businesses. Does this fall within the framework of the interim guidelines. Very hypothetically.

    Patrick – I’ll look into it.

    Daniel – we had two policy decisions – water and sewer moratoriums due to COVID, and other money coming through the state to fix that… I just wondered about making funds whole again as a possible use. Replenishing the funds.

    Tim – more exciting to me is #4, but water, sewer and broadband investments… things that can make us more resilient. We need to spend on climate change actions that will result in a positive future for Brattleboro given what we know from the last few years. That’s the more exciting piece to me – the investments.

    Ian – one thought – do you think VCLT have a plan to have some work product of a list of things they know will be approved. Every town will have some money. Id there some thought to the league giving us some starting places? I want to explore all options.

    Patrick – VLCT has hired a professional to help assist – Katie Buckly. She gave us info for our backup materials. I’ve been in touch. She says most communities tell her what they want to do and ask if they can… not looking for options. We’ll work together. It is funding for states, cities, counties… a lot of things it can be used for. We’ll work with them and be back to talk about the things the board and community would like to see investments.

    Liz – We haven’t heard from town staff – need to gather information and take our time.

    Jessica – any part of these funds can be used for the administration of the funds… if we work with another entity…. any costs built into the expenses.

    Patrick – my guess is yes, but we’ll find out.

    Elwell – if you wanted to apply the fund and needed some administration, it is the kind of one time expense that could use Fund Balance for. You might pay with town money for the oversight to implement the ARPA money. But do wait for the final guidance.

    Ian – can we supplement with the Fund Balance, just add it on?

    Elwell – you won’t want to do that. If there is administrative functions to fund, you could use town money and track the ARPA money. You could supplement your ARPA investments, but be careful about mixing due to tracking issues.

  • finale

    Kurt – ARPA funds – my reading is distribution of the funds as COVD relief would be allowed, and the town should consider distributing to people below the median income. Our economist has prepared a brief on distributing the funds. If not, we need to hear from RTM and the people, not just town staff. A people’s budget could do it… an abridged budget could be used as a template to distribute money, maybe by vouchers, to town government offices. The legal brief can be shared with you easily.

    Committee vacancies… there are vacancies!

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