Brandon to vote again on budget
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | March 27,2013
BRANDON — A petition by residents has put a special election on the calendar to revote the town’s budget.
Town Clerk William Dick told town officials Monday night that a petition circulated over the last several weeks had sufficient voter signatures — 564, or 20 percent, of registered voters — to move forward with a revote.
He said the Select Board has 60 days to put the matter before voters.
The Select Board scheduled the special election for April 30.
Dick said Tuesday he was waiting on confirmation from the Neshobe Elementary School to see if the school’s gym would be available as it has been for other elections.
The town budget of $3,292,280 was approved earlier this month by an 8-point margin, with a vote of 428-420. This margin fell well within vote reconsideration and residents soon began circulating a petition.
“It started almost immediately after the vote,” Dick said. “They would bring pages filled. I stopped counting when they had more than 570.”
Among those residents pushing for the revote was resident Lyn DuMoulin Orth, who said Tuesday she hopes the Select Board will really think about the budget, the process of building it and how it affects people.
Brandon’s budget went up about 6 percent from last year’s $3,105,900 figure and included a 10.2 percent increase in taxes.
Select Board Chairman Devon Fuller said Tuesday that the town has been level funding the budget for the last several years — mostly during the recession — and that they reached a point where they needed to start focusing on the infrastructure of the town. He said the major increases in the budget included the purchase of a new truck, adding a fourth person to the Department of Public Works, which had been eliminated a couple years ago to save money, and expanding the recreation director position from part-time to full-time.
“Our infrastructure – we felt we were not taking care of it,” Fuller said.
In numbers, the 10 percent increase equals to 0.70 cent for every $1,000 dollars of assessed property value, or about $129.50 a year, for an average home in Brandon valued at $185,000.
Fuller said looking back, they should have increased the budget 1 percent or 2 percent while keeping the tax rate the same over the last couple of years.
The tax increase in the budget voted on in March caught a lot of people by surprise and helped motivate residents to seek a revote.
DuMoulin Orth said Brandon taxpayers were facing a total tax increase of 18 percent to 19 percent, including increases in the town and school budget and an expected higher state education tax rate.
“That is more than many, many people can bear,” she said. “Brandon has a lot of retired people and people living day-to-day. A 20 percent (tax) increase is more than most can bear.”
The expense side of the budget also raised eyebrows in town, she said, as many people felt that the town was paying for things it just did not have money for or did not need.
“People here have big hearts; they like to help people,” DuMoulin Orth said. “But they did not really know what they were voting for.”
Fuller said Tuesday the petition itself did not surprise him, but instead what surprised him was that during the informational meeting prior to Town Meeting Day earlier this month, only one question was asked about the budget.
“If you have questions ask them so we can defend it,” he said.
Brian Leven, deputy secretary of state, said the vote would need a simple majority with at least 286 people voting to rescind the budget. This number represents two-thirds of the original “yes” vote of 428.