Brandon SB approves revised budget; public vote on April 30th


BRANDON—The Brandon Selectboard convened for its regular meeting on Monday evening.  Despite concerns that eclipse-related traffic might make a live meeting difficult for some, all five Selectboard members and the full town management team were present, along with a score of attendees.

Though late on the agenda, the focus of the meeting’s energy was on the revision to the proposed budget that failed at the ballot on March 5.  The Brandon Budget Committee had stripped $241K from the original $3,796,180 budget, primarily through a reworking of the original $300K property-tax allocation for paving.

In the revision, only $85K of property-tax revenue will be allocated for paving.  An additional $100K will be allocated from the town’s 1% Local Option Tax fund and $115K will be eliminated by removing the High Pond Road repaving project from the FY 2025 schedule.  

The Budget Committee had also decided to authorize the purchase of only one new police cruiser instead of two, reducing the line item for that expenditure from $48K to $24K.  The $24K allocation represents one year of payments on a three-year payment plan for the vehicle.  The next two budget cycles will also include $24K payments for the cruiser.

Additionally, the Budget Committee had decided to discontinue the automatic mailing of ballots to all registered voters in Brandon, reverting to the pre-COVID policy of mailing ballots only to those who specifically request them.  This change will save the town roughly $2K.  

However, the Selectboard did not adopt the revision on March 25.  With Board Chair Doug Bailey absent because of an injury, the four board members in attendance deadlocked: Heather Nelson and Tim Guiles voted for the revision and Brian Coolidge and Ralph Ethier voted against it.  

On Monday, with all members now in attendance, the board voted to adopt the revised proposal.  All members but Mr. Coolidge voted in favor.  

Mr. Coolidge had proposed additional cuts: eliminating the Deputy Town Manager position, not expanding the Zoning Administrator’s hours, and forgoing the GOgov subscription software that the town uses to track its operations.  None of these proposals was adopted.  The motion to eliminate the Deputy Town Manager position was not even seconded for discussion

Though the revision was strongly supported by some in the room, it also met with vocal opposition from several attendees, who expressed frustration that the cuts were not deeper and that the board was not listening to the concerns of the people it represents. Several citizen advisors to the Budget Committee 

In response, Mr. Guiles stated that the board had an obligation to all the citizens of Brandon and not only to those who attend Selectboard meetings, a stance which prompted additional admonishment from attendees, some of whom called Mr. Guiles’s comments “disrespectful.”

The total proposed budget now stands at $3,554,180, a decrease of $241,000.  The amount to be raised by taxes is now $3,030,210, which represents an increase of 10.8% over the current year.  

A main cause of the increase in needed tax revenue in FY2025 was the decision the board took last year to use money from the town’s reserve fund to offset some expenses in the current year’s budget.  Because a large portion of the current year’s budget was paid for with non-tax revenues, a move that will not be repeated in FY2025’s budget, the town needs to raise more taxes for FY2025 than it did for FY2024.  This increase in needed tax-revenues would have occurred even if proposed spending for FY2025 matched the levels for FY2024.

The revised proposal will now come before Brandon voters on April 30.  

Other business

  • The board also agreed to interview Karen Farwell for an appointment to the Brandon Historic Preservation Commission.  Ms. Farwell would be filling a long-standing vacancy.  Another seat on the Commission has recently been vacated by Jeff Stewart and will need to be filled.

Similarly, the board agreed to interview Benjamin Wimett to fill a vacancy on the Brandon Diversity Committee.  Deputy Town Manager Bill Moore spoke in support of Mr. Wimett’s application, noting that Mr. Wimett had already been helping the Committee in its work.

Both Ms. Farwell’s and Mr. Wimett’s applications can be found in the Selectboard packet for 4/8/24 on the town website.

  • The board certified that the town was in compliance with state requirements that an inventory be kept of its roadways, bridges, and other infrastructure.
  • The board adopted the annual update to the town’s Local Emergency Management Plan.  The full text of the plan can be found in the Selectboard packet for 4/8/24.  Town Manager Seth Hopkins expressed some concern that in an emergency with extensive power outages, cellphone and radio communication between emergency coordinators and residents might be difficult and alternative means of communication were being explored.
  • The board approved a mutual-aid agreement through the Rutland Regional Planning Commission that allows participating towns to borrow equipment from one another.  The full text of the agreement is in the Selectboard packet for 4/8/24.
  • The board designated Sbardella Slate of Fair Haven as the “sole source vendor” for the Town Hall Roof.  The deteriorating condition of the Town Hall’s slate roof has been the subject of ongoing concern.  ARPA funds have been set aside to cover most of the cost of a new slate roof.  Several attendees asked whether slate was the most economical material in the long term, given its need for annual maintenance.  Mr. Hopkins noted that a slate roof can last up to 150 years, which is more or less the age of the Town Hall’s roof, while other materials, such as standing seam, have a much shorter lifespan.
  • The board approved an updated payroll authorization to take into account the hiring of a new employee in the Highway Department and the resignation of a part-time police officer.
  • The board approved a warrant in the amount of $698,910.71 to cover its expenses and obligations.
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