Letter to the editor: Correct information about proposed new taxes is essential to deciding how to vote

I have been reading with interest the letters on Front Porch Forum and in the Brandon Reporter about the Selectboard’s proposed budget and would like to add my voice to the conversation. Although I am member of the Brandon Selectboard, the following comments are my own views and are not intended to represent the views of the Selectboard. I have no quarrel with folks who question the budget. I do, however, have significant concerns about the amount of misinformation, and disinformation, that I am reading in many of the posts advocating for a “No” vote on the budget. It is that misinformation I would like to address.

There appears to be significant confusion about a line item in the police department budget for two new cruisers. During the budget discussions and at subsequent Select Board meetings, the Board and the budget committee addressed whether one or both of the new cruisers should be electric vehicles, and there was support from a majority of Selectboard members to encourage

any new cruisers to be electric. However, and this is an important distinction, the budget itself does NOT specify or require that the vehicles be electric. Rather, there is an amount in the budget set aside to purchase two new cruisers. See Town Report 2022-23, Page 13. When and how that money is to be spent remains to be determined. There can be no real dispute that the police department will need to replace aging vehicles, which is what the line item is for. What TYPE of vehicle is not what we are voting on.

Unfortunately, at least one poster has blamed the aforementioned cruisers for the “significant increase in your tax bills” contained in the proposed budget. That is patently false. The line item for the new cruisers is $48,000; a fraction of the overall town budget with minimal effect on the bottom line. Rather, the marked increase in taxes that would result from the proposed budget is due almost entirely to the Selectboard’s decision to include a line item of $300,000 in

Highways to pay for road paving and asphalt.

In the past, road paving was paid for through a separate appropriation. This method allowed for a leaner budget, but created an illusion of low taxes, since the appropriation would still be paid for through taxes. It was this tactic that Board Chair Tracy Wyman described as “smoke and mirrors.” Adding it to this year’s budget, instead of using the appropriation route, while more transparent, led to the perceived increase in property taxes. If that line item were stripped from the budget and returned to appropriations, the resulting budget would increase taxes

by less than 5%, which is a modest amount in a time of inflation.

Which brings me to my next point: appropriations. At the most recent Selectboard meeting, and in later FPF posts, reference was made to appropriations “raising” taxes by 6% if they all pass. Brandon residents need only look to the current Town Report to see that all of the non-profit entities seeking voter support through appropriations have asked for the same amounts every year for at least the last three years, if not longer, and those appropriations have always passed. Town Report 2022-23, page 34. Consequently, a “yes” vote on the requested appropriations in this year’s ballot will not affect your property taxes at all; it will simply maintain the status quo. To be sure, you could choose to vote “no” on all the appropriations in the hopes their failure would potentially reduce your taxes, but by doing so you would also deprive Brandon citizens of important and necessary services that for the most part benefit the neediest of our


Thank you for your time and attention.

Cecil Reniche-Smith


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