Letter Box


Consider all that your local library does

Editor of the Reformer:

I have worked at Brooks Memorial Library for seven years and these are my own observations about the value I see in this local library and the undermining of that value by the current town budget discussion.

The most dramatic library cuts are up for discussion this week but my whole tenure at the library has been under level funding at the best points and cuts at the worst. The current proposal is to cut two full-time positions from the library, a one-third of library staffing reduction.

I got a Master’s in Library and Information Science because I believe that the cornerstone to a functioning democracy is an informed and empowered citizenry, regardless of money, race, religion, gender, or location, and free public libraries are the providers of that cornerstone.

Often when budget cuts are in the Brattleboro air, there is a lot of discussion about "essential" and "nonessential" services. Brooks Memorial Library provides essential services to a wide variety of residents. A safe, warm communal space open to all; social contact for the mentally ill; and a place for tutoring and small group connections; not to mention, a safe space for teenagers to come after school; and a space often animated with public meetings, lectures, and other events free to all.

Consider the public computer terminals, which anyone who walks in the door can use for free for Internet access, and add the value of the lessons in computer literacy. Not to mention the online digital services the library has added over the past five years despite no increase in the budget to help meet the dramatic shifts in electronic information and e-books.

Thousands and thousands of books for pleasure and information; DVDs; and audiobooks, being added to every week. A busy reference desk which provides job help in a time of high-unemployment; legal help for those in need; well-researched medical info rmation for physical and mental ailments; renters and domestic violence rights for those in abusive situations. A clearinghouse of local and general resources to help the people of this area find the information they need to make well-informed decisions.

A bright and vibrant children’s room full of books, crafts, weekly activities to support early childhood development and young family sanity. We are only open for four hours on the weekend right now which is not good for working families.

Almost all of Brooks Memorial Library’s funding comes from Brattleboro town taxes. There are no direct funds for basic library services from the state or federal government. So, with each round of cuts to the library, the library will become less essential, less functional, and an important resource to the town will be gutted.

But it is up to you the voters to say loud and clear to the Selectboard that the library does provided essential services that should not be cut.

Jess Weitz,

Marlboro, April 25

Considering the budget and the community

Editor of the Reformer:

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We found it possible to reduce the proposed municipal budget by over $1 million without cutting any positions or services. We sent detailed specific suggestions of line item reductions to department heads, the Town Manager, and the Selectboard in preparation for their next meeting, Tuesday, April 29, 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building. The public is invited to attend.

The proposed reductions, totalling $1,303,839, would result from returning salaries to 2013 levels.

While we may have been more ruthless than some would think necessary, there is still room for adding back into the budget certain line items -- like the salaries for the Selectboard and School Board (wink and smile) -- and still be within the goal of reducing the budget by $1 million.

Having been out of paid work for more than a year, we know the value of a job and imagine all town staff members would rather sacrifice a little than be without a job altogether or be witness to co-workers being laid off. After all, it is the way to take care of each other and serve the community, is it not?

Brattleboro Common Sense, a small group of concerned citizens, has been diligently speaking for the greater good of Brattleboro for several years. Weren’t they the voice who first questioned the affordability of the Fire-Police Project? Weren’t they also the ones who advised putting that project to a townwide vote? Seems their point of view has been vindicated with the recent rejection by voters of the town budget.

Perhaps we should all take notice, including the Selectboard, when Brattleboro Common Sense speaks.

Lynn Russell,

District 1 Representative,

Brattleboro, April 24

Brattleboro budget concerns mounting

Editor of the Reformer:

Of all the Selectboard’s budget-cutting proposals debated in last Tuesday’s meeting, the most horrifying is not plowing Brattleboro’s sidewalks next winter. This short-sighted move would result both in higher costs to Brattleboro in insurance premiums due to pedestrian injuries, as well as in less sales tax revenues, as shoppers would seek out plowed parking lots in nearby towns and at out-of-state malls. Merchants, hard-pressed to lure shoppers through snow drifts and across ice, would abandon Main Street, depleting our city of its vital small businesses and eateries. Those employed by these small businesses would join the unemployment rolls and further burden Brattleboro.

Cutting library staff, recreation and parks positions and an animal control officer are unreasonable options, as well. These are all positions that make a community a safer, more humane place to live. The programs offered to our community through the library and parks and recreation do more to combat crime than having an officer driving the streets in a new police cruiser. Our citizens, old, middle-aged and young, need safe yet stimulating places to go and be social, to be physical and feed their spirits. Plus, libraries, parks and recreational facilities take at-risk youths off street corners. If anything, we actually need more recreational and summer job options for this population, not less.

Instead of investing our tax dollars in a new law enforcement and firehouse facility, I would much rather see our officers outside a central facility, walking and biking the streets, mingling with our citizens, opening storefront facilities, mentoring young people and being a tangible presence in Brattleboro and surrounding communities.

Prudence Baird,

Brattleboro, April 24


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