More than 160 people attended the Brattleboro Selectboard’s special budget discussion, Thursday evening, at Brattleboro Area Middle School. (Howard
More than 160 people attended the Brattleboro Selectboard's special budget discussion, Thursday evening, at Brattleboro Area Middle School. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Selectboard put off making any decisions about the FY 2015 budget after a three hour meeting Thursday night.

About 160 people filled the Brattleboro Area Middle School All Purpose Room to let the board know how they felt about the proposed staff cuts and budget reductions the Selectboard has been considering to bring down the projected tax rate increase.

Most of the residents asked the board not to cut the library and Recreation and Parks budgets, and there was also support to keep the $14.1 million police-fire renovation project on track.

But there was also support for some of the board's proposed budget cuts.

The board did set a date for the Representative Town Meeting where the new budget will be considered.

Town Meeting Reps will meet on Monday, June 2, at 6 p.m. in the BAMS All Purpose Room to vote on the budget.

The board will continue talking about the budget at the board's regular meeting this Tuesday, at 6:15 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.

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Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein opened the meeting by explaining how the board got to Thursday night's meeting.

He stressed that the meeting was warned as a Selectboard meeting and that the board was going to have discussions about the budget, with the ultimate goal of coming up with a new budget which will then be passed on to Representative Town Meeting.

Gartenstein said that while the board was contemplating a 5 percent cut across the board, that strategy would be too severe.

Gartenstein said he got more correspondences over the past few weeks about the budget than at any other time since he joined the board, and there were a wide range of ideas expressed, he said.

"There are no good choices that we face at this point," he said.

He said that while the board was considering halting the police-fire project, both department buildings need structural help right now.

He went on to say any cut, from the police-fire project to sidewalk snow plowing was going to affect the quality of life in Brattleboro.

"We're looking at those cuts and we're going to have to make some difficult decisions," he said. "None of these cuts are something we are looking forward to deal with."

Selectboard member Kate O'Connor said she also was going to vote to halt the police-fire project and she warned the crowd that there were tough decisions ahead.

"This is the reality we're in right now in this town," O'Connor said. "And it's not going to stop when we get this budget done."

Board member John Allen said he wanted to try to move ahead with the renovations at the Elliot Street Fire Station, and use some of the surplus fund to keep the tax rate down.

He also said he wanted to close West Brattleboro Fire Station to save money and use it on Central Fire Station.

Thursday night's meeting was called after an overflow crowd packed the Selectboard Meeting Room in the Municipal Center Tuesday night, causing the board to postpone the meeting because the room was filled beyond capacity.

The board's original budget was approved at Representative Town Meeting on March 22 but 56 Town meeting Representatives signed a petition asking for the townwide vote.

After voters rejected the budget by a vote of 771-478 the Selectboard began working on a new budget, which will once again go before Town Meeting Representatives at a special meeting in June.

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