Main Street in Brattleboro seen from the top of the Brooks House building. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Main Street in Brattleboro seen from the top of the Brooks House building. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Monday December 17, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- During what can traditionally be a quiet time of the year in municipal government planning, the Brattleboro Selectboard will face some big decisions at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The board will continue discussing the 2014 budget, will talk about the design and bid structure for the $14 million police-fire stations project, and will hear from downtown business leaders about the future of the downtown business district.

Following a four hour meeting earlier this month where the Selectboard hoped to finish up the budget, the board once again will try to find a way to fund its services for 2014 without putting too much of a burden on the town's taxpayers.

Town Manager Barbara Sondag has suggested using $200,000 from the town's capital budget to help pay for some of the projected expenses.

The capital budget is largely made up of money from projects that came in under budget. The cash comes from bonds that town residents will be paying for well into the future and some Selectboard members have seemed unwilling to pay for town services such as paving with bonded money.

The board asked for more information on using the capital plan money and Sondag likely will make a case for using the bonded cash to help cover this year's expenses.

With the tax rate already expected to rise three or four cents due to the first interest payment on the police-fire project, the board is running out of options to fund next year's department requests without asking more from the tax payers.

"During this budget process I proposed a $330,000 increase in the tax levy early in the process. This is to reflect the increase in our debt service due to the need to fund the police/fire building upgrades," Sondag wrote in a recent message to town staff members. "This cost was clearly identified during all public hearings on the project. The cost of the project was clearly identified. This increase should come as no surprise."

And while the town is grappling with how it is going to pay for the massive public works project, the board is expected to also decide how it wants to approach the design and build process for the emergency services facilities.

The board will debate the differences between a design-bid-build and a design-build process. Each plan has its benefits and shortcomings, Sondag wrote in this week's administrative report.

The board also will be facing some decisions about its downtown business district.

It is time for Brattleboro to renew its downtown designation, but before the board moves ahead with the request the board members want to hear from business and property owners. The town is sending out a survey to gather information regarding participants' knowledge of the downtown program, work plan of the downtown organization and whether expectations are being met.

The survey results are expected to be available in January.

And the organization that represents the downtown businesses, Building a Better Brattleboro, will present the board with its 2014 budget and work plan.

The board is charged with accepting the budget before presenting it to town meeting representatives at next years town meeting.

The board also will continue talking about moving toward a townwide, voluntary curbside compost program, as well as forming an ad hoc Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee to work with the Burlington-based group, Local Motion, to develop a comprehensive pedestrian/bike safety program.

The board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, at 6:15 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com.