Brandon defeats town budget — again
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | June 19,2013
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Ernest Creely looks over the ballot for Brandon’s town budget prior to voting at Neshobe Elementary School on Tuesday.
BRANDON — The third time was not the charm for Brandon, as residents defeated the proposed municipal spending budget by a 45-vote margin Tuesday.
Town Clerk William Dick reported the results just before 8 p.m. with a final count of 371-326. The turnout was lower than when the budget was defeated for the second time nearly two months ago.
The budget under consideration Tuesday was $2,385,642, which is an increase of $138,562 or 6.17 percent, over this year’s budget.
Select Board Chairman Devon Fuller said he was disappointed to hear the result of Tuesday’s vote because board members thought the budget proposed was “fair.”
“This should have been the budget (for town meeting),” he said. “This seemed like the best budget.”
Fuller said the board will re-evaluate the budget and try to find places to cut, though he said it will be hard. He said the board already cut nearly $100,000 from the budget initially passed at town meeting and it will be hard to cut more.
This was the second time in a row that the budget was defeated and the third time it was presented before voters.
An original budget of $2,480,080 that sought to increase municipal spending by more than 10 percent, was approved by an eight-vote margin on Town Meeting Day. A successful petition, though, put it back on a ballot the following month.
During a special budget vote April 30, residents easily defeated the municipal spending plan, 672-390.
The increases to the initial proposed budget could be attributed in part to a new fourth position in the town’s Department of Public Works, the expansion of the recreation director’s position to full-time, and the replacement of the town’s front-end loader.
After the April vote, the Select Board looked at places where they could trim the budget — resulting in a $94,438 reduction.
The cuts came from reducing the salary for a full-time recreation director, reducing line items that were for bridgework that do not need engineering for at least another year, and nearly $35,000 was taken out for sidewalk projects.
The town kept the fourth DPW employee because it is required in the union contract.
Fuller said they need to increase the current fiscal year’s budget by at least $113,000 because of contractual agreements that include increases in salary and health care.
“We will take another shot and hopefully get a budget residents will pass,” he said.
“We had an informational meeting last night and it was very positive,” Fuller said. “The sad thing is that it’s going to cost us money.”
Brian Leven, assistant Vermont secretary of state, said early Tuesday afternoon that if the town did not pass the budget Tuesday, it would probably need to borrow money to take care of expenses. He said with the new fiscal year starting July 1, the town does not have enough time to warn another vote.
“I know that there are towns (that have had to borrow), but I can’t recall any specific,” Leven said.
He said the town would be limited to borrowing 90 percent of the amount of taxes assessed for this year.
Fuller agreed with Leven. He said the town has some money it may be able to use once the fiscal year begins, but it will not be able to collect taxes because it does not know what the tax rate is going to be.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “There are other things that we need to be doing.”