Letter Box


Voters should reach out
to Selectboard with views, concerns on budget

Editor of the Reformer:

Though David Gartenstein has told voters to contact their representatives regarding the town budget, it is the Selectboard members themselves who are designing/authoring the budget -- so if voters want to impact the budget, they must contact the Selectboard before it decides what to cut. The representatives will only have the opportunity and authority at the Special Representative Town Meeting (June 2) to approve or reject what the Selectboard presents: it is an "up" or "down" vote only.

Representatives have no power in the design of the budget unless individually, as voters, they also choose to contact the Selectboard members before the document is written.

Based on the numbers of voters who came out to the special Selectboard meeting regarding the budget, these points deserve emphasis in order to be sure voters have the truth and understand fully their power of influence is now, before the document is written. Waiting to see what the Select board will do and/or trusting the representative group to follow the will of the town’s voters has proven unreliable in the past.

At present, based on the special meeting last Thursday night, it appears that most, if not all, people in town agree they do not want any cuts to positions or services in the upcoming budget.

The Selectboard, however, seems to only consider cutting positions and services, based on their lengthy documentation provided at that meeting. Their refusal to consider curtailing salaries with freezes or reductions to 2013 levels brings attention to the fact that heads of departments are scheduled to receive raises ranging from several hundred dollars to $13,500 raise for Head of Department of Public Works, Steve Barrett, and $7,300 for Interim Town Manager, Patrick Moreland.

Cutting positions for loyal town employees who have served the town well while giving such substantial raises to men who are already well-compensated is an outrage. That goes way beyond the scope and values of the town of Brattleboro, at least the constituents of District One (1) with whom I have spoken.

Contracts can be changed when both parties agree to the change; changing contracts with the town of Brattleboro is a possibility if the parties involved are willing. Voters can encourage Selectboard to honestly and in good faith pursue salary reductions or freezes before making any other decisions.

Voters, please, call your Selectboard members to voice your concerns and suggestions for meeting the needs of the whole town not just the privileged few.

Lynn Russell,

Representative, District 1,

Brattleboro, May 3

Setting a precedent?

Editor of the Reformer:

First, I agree with Dr Fagelson’s letter (Letter Box, May 2) -- people are concerned with their taxes. However they do not want any cuts, no 1 percent sales tax, and of course the police/fire bond.

The police/fire bond was well presented and discussed before its vote in 2012. As a Town Meeting Rep, no one called me to express concerns about the bond prior to the vote. To put this project on hold is setting a precedent. Will future bond votes mean anything? More importantly, the money already spent on the project will be wasted, which is appalling to me. Most important, this project needs to done as voted, for the safety of our employees, for which we, as town citizens, are responsible for, and to have improvements made which will last a long time.

To do a half baked job is penny wise and pound foolish. Shame on the board if they put a hold on this project.

Sally Brunton,

Brattleboro, May 2

Supporting future generations

Editor of the Reformer:

We’ve known for decades from a number of longitudinal studies that investments in the early years of a child’s life pay off astronomically in more productive citizens, fewer individualized education programs and school drop-outs, less incarceration, and healthier, stronger communities. We’ve known, too, that the return on these investments (according to Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman) is at least 7 percent, if not more. So why haven’t we made these investments? One major reason is that it’s difficult for elected leaders to focus on actions that cannot be fully realized in two to four years.

In Governor Shumlin, Vermont has a leader who is ready -- despite the economic challenges of these days -- to rally both public and private sectors to find a way to realize the promise of every Vermont child.

With the collaboration of a group of private funders, business leaders with the Vermont Business Roundtable, the Vermont Alliance for Children, the Building Bright Futures public-private partnership, state leaders and private citizens representing many sectors, Vermont has been taking giant steps to improve the systems that support the healthy development of every child. Achievements to date include an Early Childhood Summit last fall, an Early Childhood Framework and a newly completed Action Plan. To support these developments, Vermont philanthropic leaders just launched a statewide campaign Lets Grow Kids! to build public awareness about the critical importance of giving all Vermont children the high quality early experiences that will enable them to succeed in life.

We’re talking especially about the first five years of life, when 90 percent of the brain’s foundation for all future learning, social and emotional development is built (80 percent is built in the first three years.) The Lets Grow Kids: Focus on the First Years campaign needs each and every one of us to get involved. This can be as simple as going to www.letsgrowkids.org, signing up, talking with your friends and colleagues and neighbors about early childhood issues and speaking out about the importance of quality early childhood experiences.

Please get involved. Our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our communities have so much to gain.

As an early childhood advocate for 16-plus years (executive director of Windham Child Care Association 1998-2008 and trustee of The Turrell Fund since 2006), I am excited to see the convergence of all these forces. In 1998 when more than 75 percent of Vermont women with children under 6 were in the workforce, only 10 to 15 percent of state-regulated early childhood programs were of high quality. In the intervening years much has happened to improve that percentage, but we still have a long way to go. The Action Plan and Early Childhood Framework will continue to move us towards our goals, but needs all of us to be informed and supportive.

Please join me in making it possible for us to realize the promise of every Vermont child.

Elizabeth Christie,

Putney, April 29


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