BABB has 1 more shot at budget

Saturday January 19, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- With a deadline looming for the town to get its Representative Town Meeting warning posted, Building a Better Brattleboro is going to get one more chance to get its budget approved by the Selectboard.

The Selectboard rejected the most recent budget at Tuesday night’s meeting, the second time the Selectboard turned the organization down, and the BABB board met Wednesday to tighten up its spending plan.

The new budget is up a little, though the money that BABB is requesting from the property owners in the downtown district has remained the same at $78,000.

The Selectboard scheduled a meeting for early Wednesday morning to hear from the BABB board one more time, and the BABB board members have to hope that their presentation goes much more smoothly this time around .

At Tuesday night’s meeting Selectboard Chairman Dick DeGray said what the organization presented was "BS" and "hocus pocus," and Town Manager Barbara Sondag said it was "shameful" how the BABB board was presenting its budget.

During the meeting, BABB board members Donna Simons and Bill Crowley sat next to each other, but said they disagreed on how the budget was put together.

The budget that was presented Tuesday included a reduction in the executive director’s time, cutting the director’s week to 18 hours.

Crowley said he did not support the cut while Simons said the BABB board and organization approved the spending plan.

The board rejected the budget Tuesday by a 2-3 vote.

David Gartenstein, Dora Bouboulis and Ken Schneck voted down the budget

Among other issues, the board members were upset that the budget included $36,000 in what Simons said were contingency costs.

Simons said the budget was written to allow for some "wiggle room," though the board seemed unwilling to approve a budget, and ask property owners to fund it, when the money was not all accounted for.

BABB Vice President Kate O’Connor said Friday that the organization was going ahead with its plan to reduce the executive director’s role in the budget which will go before the Selectboard Wednesday.

O’Connor said the group wants to hire people to sweep the streets, maintain downtown flower pots, and work more on the web site, and she said the executive director’s time had to be reduced.

The executive director’s salary is cut from $68,626 to $23,400, and the position is being rebranded as a downtown coordinator.

The group wants to pay a web consultant $5,000 and a cleanliness staff person $5,000.

BABB also wants to invest $17,500 in the downtown flower program and in holiday lights.

O’Connor also said that the group reallocated some of the $36,000 that the Selectboard was not happy to leave floating in the budget.

The new budget comes in at around $116,000, up from the almost $98,000 that was presented to the board Wednesday.

The Selectboard has to have its Town Meeting warning done by Sunday Feb. 3, and the board has said that Jan. 31 is the absolute last day to finalize a warning issue.

The town is also deciding if it wants to continue taking part in the state’s Downtown Program, which allows property owners to get historic tax credits and apply for grants.

Property owners in the downtown district fund BABB by paying a tax on their properties.

The Brooks House, The Latchis Theater and Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters have all received financial assistance through the downtown program.

In order to be in the downtown program the town has to have a downtown organization to lead business development, but it could be a group other than BABB.

It is not clear what will happen to BABB if the board rejects the budget on Wednesday.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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