’Get out and vote!’

Editor of the Reformer:

I am writing to urge all voters in Brattleboro to get out and vote on April 17 on the town budget. I am a Town Meeting Representative who originally voted in favor of the police/fire proposal because, having toured the facilities, I could see the need. I can still see the need but I no longer feel that town taxpayers can afford to do all three projects at the same time. Most Town Reps at the meeting this March felt that the Selectboard had tried hard to keep a level-funded budget. The major discussion was about the cost of the police/fire project and the wish to scale it back or do it one piece at a time.This year there is over $400,000 in the budget for the first $5 million bond for the project. We are already committed to this and have to pay it back. The only way we have to scale the project back or slow it down is to have the Selectboard not take out the next $9 million bond which they plan to do this May. About $216,000 was in the budget to pay for the first year’s interest on this next bond.

In my opinion, this year’s Town Meeting was difficult for everyone present, whether it was discussing the 1 percent option tax, the police/fire project or the many other items on the agenda. I think that most of us left exhausted. There are no easy answers to the real needs of the town and how to pay for them. However, many people have felt that all town voters should have a chance to vote on a project the size of the police/fire renovations and that is why 56 Town Reps signed a petition to bring this budget vote to all voters in Brattleboro.

Although you can only vote "yes" or "no" on the whole budget and not on the specific amount that relates to the scheduled $9 million bond, I am hopeful that the Selectboard will see a "no" vote on the budget as a strong recommendation that they should not take out another bond and should focus on scaling down the project, perhaps using the first bond to work on the Central Fire Station and then exploring alternatives to meeting the Police Department’s needs.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I urge you to get out and vote. Voting will be on April 17 at the Municipal Center on Main Street from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early ballots can be cast anytime from now until April 16 at the Town Clerk’s office during regular office hours.

Judy Davidson,

Town Meeting Representative, District 3,
Brattleboro, April 11

Rejecting budget will have far-reaching implications

Editor of the Reformer:

As I listen to the many people debate the municipal budget I cannot help but wonder if everyone understands the repercussions of a budget reduction. This statement is not meant to insult any of the Brattleboro voters but rather as a concerned observation. As a life long resident of Brattleboro and a voter I was curious what a budget reduction might mean to our town. I spoke with a number of people in town government as well as in the private sector about the possible repercussions. I found the answers from each of them disconcerting at best. If the voters reject the budget on April 17, the implication could be much farther reaching than just reducing the scope of the fire and police facilities project. Forced to operate on a reduced budget our town departments will have little choice but to reduce services.

If faced with a reduced budget, summer-time youth activities may end. Youth Summer Camp at Memorial Park may not have a budget. Perhaps the swimming pool will be closed for part of the summer. Perhaps the library will have to close part of each week. The sidewalks may no longer be plowed in the winter. Secondary streets may wait a day or two before being plowed. What happens when police and fire emergencies occur and there is not the necessary manpower to protect us. There are dozens of other scenarios that we as voters need to consider.

Some of these jobs will not just go away. People will have to do the job anyway, and there will be overtime cost associated with the job. This will translate to a higher cost for the same service in the end. I have also heard over the past several years that we need to increase our grand list. I wonder who would want to move into a town that wont support its infrastructure. Who wants to move to a town that offers limited or no youth services, community services, library, safety service, or road and utility services. If you think roads were bad this year; reduce the budget and hold on to your hat. I think we as voters really need to consider the long term repercussions before we make reductions to this or any future budget.

I urge my fellow voters to vote Yes to approve the town budget at the referendum on April 17.

Bill Johnson,

Brattleboro, April 14

Support for town budget

Editor of the Reformer:

I am writing to support the town budget as was voted on at Representative Town Meeting. A petition undermines our form of town government. Have your issues heard by your district rep before Town Meeting.

Also, when you compare the Brattleboro tax rate to the rate of neighboring towns, you will find very similar rates. The neighboring towns provide very minimal services compared to Brattleboro. Brattleboro features town sewer, town water, full-time police officers and firefighters, a wonderful road crew, a massive library, numerous recreational opportunities, as well as many many other services that are provided by taxes. Expecting our services to continue indefinitely without occasionally raising the budget or increasing taxes is foolish and naive. Please support the budget as voted on at Town Meeting. Get out and vote.

Joshua Jones,

Brattleboro, April 15

A search for compromise

Editor of the Reformer:

I am writing this letter in response to the Reformer’s editorial ("Brattleboro voters, it’s in your hands’), John Wilmerding’s column "Brattleboro’s budget deserves your ‘vote of confidence’"), and Robert Stack’s letter "Support our police, fire departments"). I will not rebut point by point but counter some misleading statements.

While it’s true that this vote cannot specifically change the scope and cost of the police/fire station project, the Selectboard knows that is what this revote is about. To talk about cutting services if the budget is voted down is a threat and I would expect if such a budget came before the Town Meeting Representatives it would not pass.

Town Meeting Reps have historically (I’ve been a rep for more than 10 years) voted for services and tax breaks for nonprofits and supported town departments. We would like to be able to do so again. But the scope of the police/fire project puts the whole budget out of whack at a time when we simply cannot afford such an expenditure. There must be some compromise of the issue.

I have no argument with work being done to make the police station a healthier place, to have fire stations that meet the needs of the fire personnel. Our police and firemen do a great job and deserve decent working conditions. But, in our lives we all have had to make hard choices in recent years. We just may not be able to give these departments all that they wish. At least not until a revenue stream is found or developed that does not put the full burden on the already heavily burdened Brattleboro taxpayers.

Arlene Distler,

District 2 Town Meeting Representative, April 15

We don’t have the money

Editor of the Reformer:

Robert Stacks is wrong, mistaken, misunderstanding the townspeople around him ("Support our police, fire departments," April 15). A no vote on the budget means the people believe we cannot afford the budget. When the people get to vote on the fire/police project, then we will learn what and how they feel about that. Neither the budget vote or a possible fire/police project vote says anything about the first responder people or the departments. It’s about the money. Don’t take it personally: We just don’t have the money.

Lynn Russell,

District 1 Town Meeting Representative, April 15

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Editor’s Note: As we do with typical Town Meeting-related letters, with the townwide vote on Brattleboro’s budget fast-approaching (April 17), we are aware that many letters in on both sides of the issue will be sent to us. We will run as many as space allows before the election. Please note that election-related letters will not run after today’s Letter Box.