BRATTLEBORO - With a major decision looming on a proposed $14.6-million upgrade to the town's police and fire facilities, the Selectboard Tuesday night spent a good portion of the meeting talking about funding options for the project.
The board started a discussion on possibly instituting a 1 percent local option tax to pay for the project.
And Finance Director John O'Connor gave the board guidelines on how much debt the town should consider and how much cash should be on hand to safely maintain services.
O'Connor said Brattleboro's total general fund indebtedness should not exceed $1,500 per capita, and the total general fund debt service, including principal and interest should not exceed 12.5 percent of the total General Fund.
The town's total general fund debt service at this time is 5.1 percent.
He also recommended that the town set a goal of maintaining a general fund balance that is at least 10 percent of the operating expense budget.
The town generally does have that much cash on hand and it helped during Tropical Storm Irene, O'Connor said, saving the town money in the long run by not having to borrow to cover short-term debt.
O'Connor said he was basing the proposed guidelines on information from the Vermont League if Cities and Towns.
The average debt per capita in Vermont is $699, O'Connor said, and Brattleboro currently has a per capita indebtedness of $350.
If the board adopts
And Finance Committee member Spoon Agave said that if Brattleboro's total general fund indebtedness did exceed $1,500 per capita, it would make it the highest level in the state.
Agave said Montpelier currently has the highest level at $1,200 per capita.
Selectboard member Chris Chapman asked O'Connor if reaching the proposed levels would be akin to maxing out a credit card.
O'Connor said it would.
Town Manager Barbara Sondag reminded the board that O'Connor was presenting the information for it to be used as guidelines, and not policy.
She said the Grand List, changes in the local and national economies, the town's obligations, and unforeseen circumstances, all make it hard to set hard and fast caps and she said if the board approves the guidelines they should be viewed as only one more financial tool to be considered when looking at Brattleboro's long term financial health.
The board did not formally adopt the guidelines Tuesday to give the town finance committee a chance to look over, and comment on, the proposed document.
-- The board also talked about adopting a new policy to guide neighborhoods that want to take part in Paint the Pavement projects, which bring neighbors together to produce public art on the streets.
The issue came up when neighbors in the Cedar and Myrtle streets neighborhood wanted to paint a design at an intersection.
The board thought it was racing against the calendar to get a policy in place because the Cedar-Myrtle group wanted to do the project before winter, but Teta Hilsdon said the group decided to wait until the spring.
The board talked about using the Cedar-Myrtle project as a pilot study for a townwide policy, but decided to table the discussion since there was no rush to get it done.
-- The board formally accepted a $50,000 NEA grant and agreed to pay for the required $10,000 match with $5,000 from the CDBG fund, and another $5,000 from the General Fund or other grant sources.
-- The board scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m., to talk about a pending social media policy, and also to talk about the police-fire project.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.