Selectboard Special Meeting Notes – Finances, Long Term Plans, and Consent Agendas

brattleboro selectboard zoom meeting

Tuesday’s special meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard was mostly about money, but also a bit about scheduling. These was also a good summary of how the sustainability coordinator position has evolved in year one.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    Pre-meeting banter about Matisse, spiffiness, Billy Crystal, hamsters… and Brandie having technical issues.

    Chair Tim Wessel – a special meeting. Two things. First comment is to send thoughts out to the many families affected by the sudden closure of the Retreat programs, and Mulberry Busgirl school. 85 people losing their jobs pretty soon and the school is closing. Our son goes to that school. Over 50 families affected by that decision alone, and 85 jobs, and a HUB program and I’m getting to the bottom of what’s been going on there and a lot is driven by the state. I’m concerned by decisions made there. Not good news during a pandemic or for our town. The other topic is elections. There is concern around our elections and have gotten letters. I want to reassure everyone that in Brattleboro every vote will be counted. Voter intimidation will nt be tolerated here. Police are already at work. Every vote will be counted, and there will be a seamless voting experience. Police will be here serving and protecting voters. Just wanted to get that out there. There’s a weird national environment. Lots of people working on it.

    Peter Elwell – no comments.

    Brandie Starr – I definitely was pretty distressed to hear about the Retreat. 85 jobs is a lot of jobs and I have a particular concern about closing of the HUB program. Parts may exist but people in the community… we have seen more deaths from opioids. People are isolated. I’m hopeful we’ll keep the programs in the community. With that going on, and things downtown, and things nationally, we need to take care of our mental health. People around you may be really freaking out. People aren’t sleeping. Be kind to one another.

    Liz McLoughlin – the financial health of the Retreat depends on the Scott administration. It’s not a municipal issue so much as Governor Scott.

    Ian Goodnow – couple of things – first, November 3rd is a big vote coming up. You got your ballot. Fill it out and take it to the municipal center parking lot box. Or bring it in person to the American Legion. Or sign a form. Shouldn’t mail it in now, drop it off. Or vote in person. And want to echo comments about the election. I care about elections. We’ll do everything we can to have a smooth election day and I have full faith in staff. We had a dry run with the primary with all the same elements. It went really well. Second thing – Liz and I went to board of abatements last Wednesday. It went well. Reminder that there is a homestead rebate program. It’s a way to get a rebate on property taxes if you qualify your home as a homestead. Many people came to the board of abatements hadn’t heard about it. Lack of knowledge.

    Liz – if your income qualifies and often it does, the state pays the school portion of your taxes. People find out way too late. More people need to know and understand the benefits.

    Ian – last thing – the first hard mitigation committee meeting. Went well, Learned a lot. We’ll be looking for public participation and comment in the months to come. If you have feelings about hazards in the community look for dates and times.

    Liz – went to online Hinsdale bridge meeting – very informative. A by-state committee did a good presentation about the old and new bridges. Worth watching on BCTV.

    Tim – gives a great idea of what is going on and what might happen with island.

    Daniel Quipp – the moratorium on disconnections has past so you may get a disconnection notice. Call SEVCA. If you are concerned about any bill call 211. You’ll get help. Help with current rent and such. Continue to access the programs. There are big appropriations so let’s use the money.

    Tim – public participation…

    Michael Bosworth – the topic isn’t on the agenda, but a lot of us, no matter who they are backing, are worried about results being up in the air. We need to respect democracy, and you support it, I’d like to see a statement from the Selectboard about it. Make a simple non-partisan statement addressing the topic. I have one to suggest – three points. 1. safe access to the polls for all voters. 2. recognize state and local election officials as trusted source for certified results, and 3. encourage patience as votes are counted. It is simple and fundamental. I hope you consider making a joint statement. It goes beyond Brattleboro. Thanks.

    Gary Stroud – thanks for being the glue for this town and holding this town together. You are all right I reached out for resources and they were there. Yes, Daniel. With eh holiday, and COVID and elections and the virus. We need to hang in there and hope for the best. They will. This is a great support group. My question is for Patrick Moreland – was there a transition away from GoTo – is this for all committees? Everything on Zoom?

    Elwell – we switched to zoom for selectboard meetings, but each committee could decide. Goto meeting is simpler and more reliable for small meetings, but some have switched to zoom. WE should talk offline about the issue you are having with connecting to GoTo meeting. Let’s see if we can make it easier for you.

    Gary – might be my computer. It’s hit and miss.

    Elwell – let us know…

    Daniel – there is the mutual aid and tech group to help with tech issues. They might help with others in similar predicaments.

    Franz Reichsman – Tim and Ian and Michael have covered some of my issues – the upcoming election and aftermath. When the president is explicitly and repeatedly stating he won’t necessarily follow the results, and there could be voter fraud if he loses, and there are enforcers – there is ample reason to be worried. I have a letter in a newspaper about it. When a coup is attempted, the step that have to be taken is that large numbers need to not accept it, and are institutions enter the discussion and make sure things get done – you guys. We don’t know what will happen, nor the aftermath. I want to ask for your assistance with this. A statement would be nice. Safety and rights of everyone need to be safeguarded. many people here are worried about this.

    Abby Mnookin – I’m at home with my defenders of democracy. I support what Michael and Franz just shared. I have heard several people in elected office say they can’t get involved and I want to push back on it being partisan. Defending democracy sin everyone’s interest and I hope the board take the threat to the democracy seriously. Not concerned locally, but taking a stand is important and it carries weight. Come forward with a nonpartisan statement. I’m with 350 VT. Over 100 people at an evening meeting last week about this.

    Tom – we can put something on next week’s agenda – there are competing suggestions…

    Liz – I suggest we ask Elwell to review all comments and come up with something.

    Brandie – I agree.

    Ian – I agree. It should come from the Town. I appreciate the people who spoke tonight.

    Elwell – I’ll prepare something for next week. First item of new business. We just have two other items next week due to elections.

    Gary – Peter answered the question. It can’t be political opinions.

    Brandie – in general, you can’t wear political garb into the polling place, right?

    Ian – yes – this comes up. It is a law. You can’t go in wearing things that say candidates names or issues.

    Elwell – this isn’t going to be about who should win or lose, just about the democratic processes of government and letting them run their course, and defending results.

    Gary – it is a grey area and lots of actors overstep their bonds.

    Liz – campaign buttons, t-shirts with names, masks, hats… will ban you from the polling place.

    Ian – we’d tell you to cover it or take it off.

    Tim – not a banning. Just take off political garb. I love saying garb.

    Daniel – masks available to substitute for your political masks?

    Ian – yes, and for those without them.

    Daniel – the name of a party or politician, or a slogan…

    Ian – no political materials

    Brandie – open to interpretation

    Daniel – if it said Make America Great aAgain, that’s not on the ballot, right?

    Liz – covered by what Ian read.

    Ian- I don’t know…

    Elwell – I suggest we move along. There are rules and laws that apply. There are people who will carry this out. Not helpful for us to speculate. Let them manage it.

  • Sustainability Update and Workplan Sustainability Coordinator Stephen Dotson

    Sustainability Coordinator Stephen Dotson – I feel special meeting on a special meeting. I spent info ahead of time. I’d like to walk you through some of it. My camera will be off to save bandwidth… I’ll share my screen.

    Dotson – about a year ago you solidified this position. What has it meant? It’s been the strangest start to any job. What does sustainability mean in this context? Brattleboro becomes more livable for longer for everyone – more just, regenerative, resilient relationships. Strengthening of quality of life for everyone. Key concepts and needs – the top need is to continue to build consensus and further define sustainability to Brattleboro. I come from servant leadership, looking to build upon common ground. People need to be engaged and be more engaged with the civic process. Three new R’s – Resilience, regeneration, and relocalization. Equity needs to be brought in from the beginning. The status quo is not sustainable. We need to regenerate resources. We need to think about local power, ecology and economy, to take our own fate into our hands. We need to thin across systems to find co-benefits and intersections, and creative funding.

    Dotson – I’ve reviewed materials that went into creating this position. A one person coordinator means I have a mandate to collaborate. I need to respond to community needs, be a catalyst, a backbone, a resource finder… to address conservation and cost savings in town, and in Town with a big T.

    Ian – explain that?

    Dotson – big T I mean Brattleboro’s buildings… town with a little T is the wider community. In the Big T Town, I plug in with leadership and department heads, committee relationships. I hope to set expectations, and have a flow to keep track of things I’m doing. Monthly department reports. And we’ll have a quarterly newsletter in the Planning Dept. I hope to have the energy committee do a spring energy report, and a I’ll do a fall sustainability report. Over the winter we want to do surveying to find our focus, and longterm I need to work myself out of a job. It should be worked into all things we do. Very long, very slow, but there ar frameworks for certifying your towns – LEED, STARR, Eco-municipality… we may go through this process.

    Dotson – up until now – Feb 4th was my first day. COVID came and changed everything. Needed to help with community connection and needs. Helped with mask sewing coordination and funding. Over 16k masks for our region so far. Jen Batty coordinated all of this. I’m an enabler, not central to this story. We needed connection and communication across the community, so I helped coordinate that across many networks – groundworks, united way, VCRD, windham regional. We need more grassroots efforts. Once that was settled, we looked at food needs and connecting food nonprofits. Growing Resilience campaign. Food and history of the land and food. Justice and equity are prerequisites for sustainability. We need to know of historical inequities. There is land acknowledgment language here. Community Food Farm Action Team (CFFAT) was the collaborating organization. Strolling of the Heifers has suffered a setback and there is great crisis and opportunity there. We helped connect more trails in town. A bike able trail from Guilford to Brattleboro, Retreat Trails, and maybe a path to the unused part of the railing near Whetstone and West River. It will be slow and is speculative. There are opportunities. Potential to establish a bike bale trail from Newfane to Keene. The Energy Committee did may things – time trade, the tech group, cow power, carbon neutrality, and updated energy report, more public outreach. We do have some historically set goals for carbon neutrality. Other projects as well. Worked with others in the region, too.

    Dotson – what’s in motion? A small budget got me an Americorp Service member to help with data collection. Have a seed and tool library. More trail work. New Ag committee. Gathering of energy data for town energy, water, and waste. Building more connections.

    Dotson – in losing, we need to build a vocabulary and shared vision, improvement to systems like the town website. We can have a different conversation in Brattleboro than what is discussed nationally. How do we realize our power? Re-localization. Choices about food and services matters. Need to bring down our footprint. We can find power within. Project Drawdown is a good set of actionable steps communities can take, ranked. Sometime it is not what you think, like more contraception. What of these 100 approaches would work here, and build resilience from other disruptions? I hope next to survey the community over the winter and prioritize some things we can do, and huddle with committees to review survey results and identify priorities. Grateful to be able to do this work. Strangest job, but I love it. It lifts up others and I’m lucky to have Brattleboro to work with.

    Tim – Thanks for the summary.

    Brandie – you mentioned we saw the list of ideas. I think we can find a lot fo relief in the way you put it.. everything you reported is the foundation, You had to get to the bottom of things to get through the crisis. It was a good presentation, and you’ve been laying out roots. Very comforting to hear. You have great people around you. I appreciate you find power in collaboration.

    Daniel – same here. Way to coordinate! In the report it was a breath of fresh air. This year has been really challenging and may get mores. We’re lucky you joined us when you did and demonstrated such an ability to roll with things and be flexible and emergent. You are in the spotlight right now, and now how your position came to be, but so much of this is about skilled coordination in our town government. We are in as good a place as we could be.

    Tim – your graveyard – when I read the graveyard – in his larger report. Some things intrigued me… the window dressers idea mentioned in there. Window quilts, not them?

    Stephen – it is an insert, a custom fit insert of poly film.

    Tim – to create more air barrier.. that sort of example to work on in town and then around the community. That stuff excites me. It overlaps showing taxpayers that yankee ingenuity is going on. I love projects like that. Real tangible programs and results. A combination of values. Another thing – Jeff Nugent working on trails… not only are there great maps, but getting the word out about those trails. Trails should have better trail markings. You can get turned around pretty easily. And yes about the town website needing work. Things happen… a question. COVID changed everything – what do you think would be in your top agenda if COVID hadn’t hit us?

    Stephen – hard to say. We’d probably be in the middle of something else. The center for all things is our food and farm system. There is an intersection between food, water, waste… all comes into farms. Many gains to be made. I have no single project, but that’s where we have the most resources locally to make impacts. There are other things, such as cow power and offsets. If we go in that direction, we should invest in our own forests and retire the credit here. Can I find ways to bring in multiple committees work on these issues? I’m opportunistic. Making the most of what swirls around me.

    Liz – your memo – it is understandable that COVID was a complete upheaval, but you turned it into an opportunity. I do remain skeptical of this position’s opportunity costs, but I’ll have an open mind. Food insecurity is very important for the community. I liked your future ideas. A question – surprised you are working with the schools… don’t know of any other staff member that works with schools.

    Stephen – yes, the school are part of the little T town I’m working with. I don’t work directly with them – they don’t have time, but I’ve tried to explore ideas – the climate crisis task force asked me questions. Schools are prerequisite for everything that happens in the community, like talking with Starr at the library about meeting spaces. Storefonts go empty, and schools need spaces. A community meeting catalog at the library would help. How could I help this happen? Would I need to find money? Nothing else happens if school doesn’t happen. On the equity point, gender inequity has gone through a transformation – women hot harder by men with employment issues, and it is related to school. – The ecoAmericorps people work with one another and are in touch.

    Liz – window weatherization –

    Stephen – I meet with Guy regularly…

    Ian – a different perspective. I appreciated the materials and presentation. I am in favor of the whetstone station trail…glad that conversation is going. I’m struck by… the fact that there needs to be some defining of what your role was when you came in. A lot of that was affected by COVID. Curious if you will have a reevaluation of that role and what is the job, when we are out of the crisis, or did this define the position and this is it?

    Stephen – I was always worried about disruption – climate, but also pandemics and cyberattacks and the solar flares. In 1859 it wide out all telecommunications on one side of the planet. Disruptions that are far more drastic than flooding. We are in the era of disruption. The pandemic demonstrates where we can build foundations to buttress against disruption.. We have vulnerabilities to address. It isn’t specific just to climate.

    Ian – when I thin of the website, I wouldn’t put that under sustainability, but tell me why I’m wrong.

    Stephen – I want people to come to more meetings better informed for a public process. The site is old and not doing as much as we can do. It would need a major investment. We need trust in communication. Needed for sustainability and consensus.

    Tim – coming up on a needed break… Gary has a question. Anyone else on the board? After the break, we have to talk finance and budget.

    Gary – I was on the energy committee and we talked about things, but covid put a halt on things. Dealing with carbon emissions and noise emissions. Have you worked with Vtrans for reducing carbon emission via ridership of busses? I’d like to join with you and help out.

    Stephen – glad you joined the Ag Advisory committee. I have worked with VTrans on trails and bikes. Because of COVID, bus travel is less appealing , bit we can’t forget about it. There are interesting ideas. The hitching post update is something to look at.

    Abby – Great to hear this presentation. Been waiting for this. I second what you say abut communication and think of creative ways to engage the community in this work and encourage them to be involved in certain ways. It is an opportunity to do things differently. Find ways that are better than digging through reports on the current website. Zoom meetings make it easier to stay connected.

    Tim – break until 8:15.

  • Monthly Financial Report – September

    Tim – we’re back.

    Elwell – the next 4 items are finance items and next week we’re presenting the budget. This has been a year unlike any other. Not just COVID. One impact is that the things we talk about tonight would have been earlier and over three months of time. Some info is a bit old now, but useful. Then we need to move to a normal cycle of LTFP in August, year end results in September, and budget. The monthly report and schedule of meetings are somewhat minor. By doing it in August, we can let the community provide input and selectboard to direct staff to prepare the budget – we didn’t do all that this year but we’ll have weeks of FY22 budget meetings. For reasons well talk to, this is the year when staff propose a major web site recreation – cleaner, better, newer. There are some aspects of lessons learned from COVID makes it necessary, and some good financial news to do this expensive thing. Well have more to say next week. Still gathering information to get good pricing. We’ll be able to afford it, and it will be expensive.

    Elwell – Sept monthly report is good. We’re on trend with spending. (Reviews memo). Revenues are harder to gauge. Nothing remarkable here for the first quarter. Solid Waste – revenues are ahead of expenses. Better than expected. $245k in program income and lots of considerations about how to use it. More on that later. Reservations have been made for projects you have planned.

    Daniel – couple of questions – small business sloan situation. From my reading, only two had made a payment recently?

    Elwell – can’t say for certain. We have had payments coming in, and someone wants to pay their balance and borrow more. There is some activity there.

    Daniel – status of the revolving loan fund being replenished in a meaningful way?

    Elwell – uncertain – if the board required people to make payments again that could do it, but it is a bit too early for that in my opinion. There will be additional business impacts to businesses already strained. Will they make it through COVID and be able to repay? Far from certain. Not a decision for now or in the next few months, so we have not had the fund drained as we thought it might be by the state for other business funding. Pretty static at the moment.

    Daniel – the Sept report. In the expenditures for human resources the budget line is zero… explain?

    Elwell – oh, yes… resources. The reason is that the department is being created in FY22 budget. Now that we have a couple of years f functioning, it feels more proper to show HR as a function rather than embed the expenses in the Town manager’s numbers. This year is zero because we are starting. You’ll see how we adjust it.

  • FY20 Year-End Financial Report – Final But Unaudited Results

    Elwell – short answer here is we had a very good year in a bad year. Not directly related to COVID – allowing us to overcome the negative impacts. You may have heard of municipalities worried about sever financial crisis in the municipal operations – significant deficits and laying people off. We aren’t experiencing that and it was perplexing. The structure of your budget can have a lot to do with this. Montpelier has suffered more than us – their parking revenues we’re a revenue fund – they funded other parts of the town government, so shutting down parking impacted other departments. Not so here, as a separate enterprise fund. Things like that significantly affect how one makes it through these times. There are other things like that. This was the first year of the 1% LOST. We thought wed do better than what we budgeted, due to online tax collection – expected $630k and got over $800k of revenue through that fund. Just because of what we described – online purchases were up this year. It helped with this part of the town budget. Those two factors caused us to have a very positive outcome to FY20. $416k to the good. This looks at the use-of-fund balance. We don’t use any of the fund balance when we have a year this good – just operate off relative revenues. We also don’t draw as much fund balance down as allowed. At the end of the year we draw what is necessary. This year we ran an actual surplus, returning funds into the fund balance. It gives us opportunities to address needs in capital and website. Two footnotes – the $416k positive outcome actually is a $546k surplus, but near the end of the fiscal year, due to COVID, parking, and solid waste bags, we transferred $40k. We’ll correct that by embedding it in the general fund going forward. In FY20, there was a 40k drawdown, and a $90k transfer for paving and parking garage work. In Utilities we also had a surplus, but it is misleading – it helps with upcoming expenses in water treatment plant. It is additional grant revenue from the state that was owed to us coming at random times. For money we invested in sewage treatment plant upgrades a decade ago. State has been paying pieces over time. In FY20, we had the surplus for the year caused by this transfer. We got a million recently that will show up next year. Parking fund had a deficit. Shut down for three months, then less activity and we’ll see a winter time slowdown as well.

    Ian – a general question – is the advantage of not having an enterprise fund for parking is that you can use the money for other things?

    Elwell – yes – enterprise fund operate as private businesses.

    Ian – will Montpelier correct this mistake?

    Elwell – not a mistake, just a different way to do it. It provided revenue to the general fund to keep taxes down. Our way works for us.

  • Long Term Financial Plan – 2020 Update for FY22-FY26

    Elwell – here’s where I get long-winded. I’ll try not to bog down in detail. I’ll hit highlights. Worth taking a bit of time with this, to look beyond next year at a long term perspective. How are we managing problems to get as much done as possible.

    Tim – it is four pages of essential reading for those wondering where the town is going.

    Elwell – this is not a budget – it is a five year forecast, starting with FY22. We know it will be different, but we have a pretty solid handle on what to expect next year. The second year and beyond, the forecasts are more based on trends. Old debts going away, too, but those are rare. Looking at trends, like in our first LTFP we showed worker’s comp being unaffordable over 5 years so we were able to act to help workers return to work more quickly after injuries. It is helpful to a person. We addressed it. Got better rates and know what the cost will be and it will be level. In 2016 we identified it as being out of control to reign in. It’s now flat. We purposely are cautious in our assumptions. We want to overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues. We are likely to beat our forecast property taxes – increases of 2.5-2.9% – about 3-4 cents over five years, or about $70 of annual increase. We think this is reasonable and affordable and conservative. We’ll have one more year of extra revenue – we expect more in the LOST revenues, and we expect to overcorrect again next year. We’re predicting it stays level at about $800k. Rooms & Meals was impacted – a decline of 14%. No expectations of it rebounding quickly… small increase as the years go forward. The first year of this forecast will be the first post-covid budget – starting next July. Hopefully things are building up again by then. We don’t expect further decline. FY22 will be the coming out period.

    Elwell – Employee contributions to health care premiums… a cost sharing is in effect for purchased health insurance. We’ll get revenue from employees toward that expense. Our costs will be flat. Employees costs go up. Cost to tax payers will be reduced. The following year, we don’t know what the taxpayer’s portion will be. Likely an increase. Don’t see additional shifting in the final years of the plan. Planning Permit Fees – we’ve been under collecting. We think $30k is a reasonable amount. We reduced rental income at the police station for the Reformer. We forecast small incremental increases over coming years. Our shared expectation with the Reformer. We don’t assume any use of fund balance. WE want to tap what’s available so we can withstand other sever impacts from COVID or tropical storm Irene, or.. those cause us to draw on the unassigned fund balance. It sustains us through economic downturns. We want about 2-3% surplus each year. We’ll often have a little extra, and that can be spent on one-time expenditures such as capital needs. We’ll spend some fund balance on a new website this year for community engagement. We assume there won’t be any surplus to use in our forecast – it just shows what we are collecting that year. For capital projects and purchases we can push our real time funding a bit higher. We have lots of old infrastructure to work on. We need to be spending more. We started at $350k then went to $1 million. We’ve done $1 million for two years, and again next year, but it will go higher after that. $1.1m in fy23, then $50k increases after that… to end up at $1.2m per year. This is why we do long term planning. We can see we can do this using the LTFP.

    Tim – I’m happy we don’t have an increased transfer to capital in FY22. We might want to discuss how to reach this capital increases.

    Elwell – it would be good for us if we could move faster than this. Increasing by $100k a year would be good, but it would be an additional tax burden. We can afford this.

    Ian – so when we spend $359k on capital and a goal to spend one million, it doesn’t seem like we have that this time?

    Elwell – last year we identified $1.5m as the goal, but we didn’t have a plan. I didn’t say it this year. We now have a 25 year equipment replacement plan. We can manage our fleet and heavy equipment that will save money. Some things are essential – a dump truck. We’ve reduced the fire fleet to bare minimum. We need to do one for one replacements now. They are very expensive. But we have a plan to fund and buy them, and replace them before they wear out. One benefit is better trade in values. It costs $800k a year for this and is going up. That leaves $150k to do paving and other things, but we don’t want to sacrifice on equipment replacement, so we need to get on top of the recurring costs in the project side, coming every year. That’s why it needs to be more than a million a year.

    Liz – talking about taxpayer expectations for each year, plus water and sewer increases. Could you explain that?

    Elwell – not off the top of my head. You approved a five year plan to fund water and sewer and a year of no increase, then small increases on the water side. The tilt for the past five years was increasing sewer and keeping water lower, now five years of things going the other way, then we expect many years of steady rates.

    Liz – just wanted people to know there are separate increases in property vs water and sewer.

    Elwell – solid waste is coming into the general fund. It is where it belongs. It has been a separate operation. It is not an enterprise fund. It doesn’t stand on its own two feet. We’ve been planning this for years, to avoid the annual transfer. The deficit we expect will show up in the general fund budget, itemized. Then it will be steady. More transparent and responsible. Same thing with Human Resources. Spending the same amount, but moving it out of the Town Manager’s office budget. We have a good estimate of hiring and retiring. 2.75% increases to salaries each year. Some get 3%. Some big salaries retire. No new employee positions proposed in the next five years. Retirement – we made a change in the employee retirement program for non-police and fire. It was a win-win. A better costing plan, and a better program for employees. That increases over time and it is going back up to where we were. Still $35k of savings over FY17. Over the next five years we expect that to disappear. The next item is health insurance – I’ll skip. Said it above. Departmental expenses this year – supplies and services – not the cost of people or benefits. Those expenses were increasing lower than inflation until 2019. Last year we had increased state requirements for managing drainage and along roadways. Departmental expanse would increase greater than in years prior. Still seeing this part increasing faster than inflation, and that drainage obligation.

    Liz – wasn’t there going to be separate funding?

    Elwell – yes, and we didn’t get to it this year. It will take 2-3 years to get there for a fair system to property owners about how much water drains off. We’re anxious about it. Haven’t even hired the consultant. A stormwater utility – a third enterprise fund. A fee based stormwater drainage system. Large commercial properties with lots of asphalt will pay more than single family homes with gravel driveways. It gets complicated. There are incentives built in to encourage redevelopment to absorb more stormwater. The cost will increase rapidly for years, then become steady. It will be in a separate system.

    Elwell – the next item is worker’s comp, then Human Services – the forecast had steady funding at $210k – the informal 1% of the budget target. For the next 5 years. Recently they discussed it being 2%. There will be more discussion of that. We didn’t forecast for it. Ambulance Services benefitted from a discount we received, but that is phasing out. Next year is last year of phase out, then funding will be really steady for this service. Annual debt service payments will decline. One benefit to a replacement program is we don’t borrow for things that won’t last that long. We now make money on it. Now we won’t add debt as much as we once did. We also won’t see as much old debt fall off the books with these larger equipment drops. About $275k in reduction. Not much, but helpful. We do need to borrow for Living Memorial park, and Public Works facility, in the future. We have a $5m placeholder, but we’ll better define those costs. Also not reflected in this plan very well is we expect to save money in municipal center operations – we are optimistic that a renovation will help the town and provide affordable housing on the upper floors. Should reduce costs with a reduced footprint in the building. Not forecasting this yet, though.

    Elwell – that’s it.

    Tim – you didn’t disappoint.

    Daniel – it wasn’t boring.

    Tim – only lost three people during the presentation.

    Ian – have we looked at the 2016 long term plan to see how year four looks like now?

    Elwell – no. Haven’t looked. We’ll look at it each year. A good question is how accurate we were.

    Daniel – a good description of where we are headed. It isn’t a long document. I encourage others to look at it. The town is in good hands whomever is on the selectboard.

    Tim – in March the TM doesn’t know what sort of board you’ll have. Could be frustrating or concerning at times.

    Elwell -some anxiety for sure, but it is important to note that we started with discussing standing up for democracy. We take seriously that we do good work to bring you good information, but we don;’t have any expectation that staff gets to decide what happens in Brattleboro. You set policy, and RTM has say over you. That creates layers of uncertainty in long term planning, but it is the essence of the system.

    Liz – proves that we’re lucky to have Peter in this position and he appears to like his job.

    Franz – really a good presentation and it was interesting. As someone who used to care about town budgets, I felt like was almost normal again for the last half hour.
    Tim – it is on the town website.

  • Budget Schedule

    Elwell – it is tighter this year. You are holding a public hearing on the Hinsdale Bridge project. We’ll do an overview next week. This schedule shows budget work on every Tuesday. It’s our suggestion. Next week we’ll ask you to lock it in. Tonight, look it over.

    Brandie – looks reasonable.

    Liz – I intend to interrogate the police chief during this process. I’d like to make sure we have time for that.

    Ian – you mean separate from Fire?

    Liz – we should have the policy discussion before we have the budget discussion. A two part discussion. One before the other.

    Daniel – to hear committees report back – there is one week, the 29th without a meeting, could that be where the community safety review comes to report?

    Elwell – I expect they need every hour. Send a written report then appear in January, I expect. The 22nd is also a general topic night.

    Tim – I’m comfortable, as long as it doesn’t step on vacations…

    Elwell – if you want a police policy night, then we’ll juggle this. Maybe not as much traveling this year at holidays?

    Ian – for the 3rd, I’d like to keep the meeting as short as possible, so if the overview is on the 3rd…

    Elwell – I’m hoping it will be tolerable. The shorter the better, but you could cancel the 3rd, but that makes budget even slower. The sole reason is for me to deliver the budget and provide an overview. It will be recorded and people can watch the hour or so and hear the bugger picture. It still serves a good value even if people donor show up. It is an inconvenience, but gives us an advantage to move forward with budget details after that. There will be a lot to tell next week. Things that need detail. probably an hour or more. The other item is s segment for democracy, and that should be quick, then one other item we’ve been requested to be put on. It might be 10-20 minutes. Less than 2 hours.

    Ian – this isn’t my inconvenience – speaking for others.

    Elwell – overview night is least important for community input.

    Tim – there is time before return come in nationally… we might have a captive audience.

    Daniel – you don’t have to watch the results.

    Liz – many are still scarred from 4 years ago.

  • Potential Use of a Consent Agenda

    Elwell – I’ve had this conversation with prior boards. We’ve discussed it before. While the consent agenda was used in prior years, it has been some time. There is a strong concern that it is moving in the wrong direction for democracy and transparency. It toes a line that is completely respectful of showing everything we are doing and having conversation about things that need it, while not being compelled to discuss everything. I’ve used it in other places. It is commonly used. There is a cluster of items at the start of the agenda for simple things like accepting a grant for a library. It doesn’t need 10 minutes of discussion, nor the need to have staff wait for it on the agenda. I have a real concern we have spent long hours on important issues this year and will again next year. More than once, we raced through business late at night, and there were occasions where items were bumped form the agenda and moved to the next week, and it repeats. It is more transparent for the public to know that there are easy items without discussion, and get them done. It is better for the public. Better for staff, too. The way we ensure the public isn’t given short shrift, the backup materials will be even better with details. The public can still engage with anything presented – any of you can have any item pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion – it is essential. One motion can approve the consent agenda. Some nights it will be helpful, others not so much. Sometimes additional discussion is required, It is for things that are pretty obvious.

    Tim – it is something we should try. Where in the agenda?

    Elwell – after public participation, and before other business. Before liquor or utilities. Should be the first item.

    Tim – public could urge action and removal from the consent agenda.

    Elwell – pulled items go to the end of the agenda so they don’t throw off the rest of the meeting.

    Brandie – we did this at Brattleboro Savings – worked very well. Great that anyone can pull an item.

    Liz – I’m in favor as well. Meetings are long, and important things get discussed late at night while people are asleep and not represented. Shorter meetings are better.

    Ian – I feel great about this. I’d like Tim to explain it for the first few meetings so the public understands. Reflecting on this, it is a good sign we need this. We have incredible participation in so many issues. This isn’t a concession. It gives us more time to expand participation.

    Daniel – seems likely to pass. Maybe sometime last year I thought about this, and this year’s meetings have been extra grueling, and much happens late. I have felt times holding back questions because of the time. But I ask for myself and those watching. It’ll be an interesting process of figuring out my tolerance for having a question to pull something off the consent agenda. behind the scenes, sometime we ask staff questions over the weekend. I’m in favor of it as an experiment. I wonder how it will impact our behavior. Who will decide what goes on the consent agenda?

    Elwell – yes, a trial period and see how it goes. Yes, the chair and vice chair will set the agenda based on what I propose to them. They can adjust and decide.

    Daniel – the board has questions. It will be curious to see how much stays on the consent agendas.

    Elwell – I hope this works. We might also see that nothing stays on the consent agenda. You’ll try it out.

    it passes by informal consent

  • Could someone explain this...

    Could someone clarify the following:

    Tim – public could urge action and removal from the consent agenda.

    Elwell – pulled items go to the end of the agenda so they don’t throw off the rest of the meeting.

    Brandie – we did this at Brattleboro Savings – worked very well. Great that anyone can pull an item.

    What does that mean, that “anyone can pull an item?” How would that work? How would someone go about pulling an item?

    • I'll try...

      During public participation, the public could SUGGEST something be taken out of the consent agenda. Board members can be swayed or not by their eloquence.

      At the start of the consent agenda, ANY board member can say “take this item (or these items) out and put it/them on the regular agenda” and it will be done.

      If items are taken out of the consent agenda list and put on the regular agenda, they go last on the list, as not to disrupt other scheduled items and people who have come to discuss them in that order.

      It is an experiment for a few months to see if it can speed things up.

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