WSWMD postpones vote on increased budget
BRATTLEBORO -- Taxpayers have more time to weigh in on a regional solid-waste budget that asks for a 9 percent increase in contributions from 19 member towns.
Though no one showed up Thursday night for a public hearing on Windham Solid Waste Management District's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, the district's board postponed a vote on the spending plan.
"They did not vote on the budget," Bob Spencer, the district's executive director, said Friday. "They wanted to give towns more time to respond."
A final vote on the district's budget now is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 9.
There are contingency plans in place for board members to vote via phone during that session in case of bad weather, Spencer said. At least 10 votes are needed for a quorum, and the board cannot put off a budget decision any later than January.
"It's in our charter that we have to have a budget by then," Spencer said.
The district is headquartered on Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro, where workers sort through piles of recyclables collected from area towns. The district makes some of its money by selling sorted plastics, metal and paper.
But markets for all of those materials -- in particular, paper -- have been in a downturn for several years.
Also, the quantity of recyclables reaching the district has dropped. Officials blame the economy, reasoning that reduced purchasing means less trash and less recycling.
The district's board, made up of representatives from member towns, cut costs and also borrowed from the organization's landfill post-closure fund to alleviate the impacts of stagnant revenues.
But the proposed fiscal 2015 budget still boosts member towns' assessments by 9.1 percent.
Those assessments subsidize the district's operations and are based on population. For instance, Brattleboro is the district's largest town; its proposed fiscal 2015 assessment is $157,641, up from $144,548 currently.
The board held a public hearing on the budget Thursday, but it was a quiet session.
"We had the public hearing and, other than some board members who came early, we had no outside impact from the public," Spencer said.
Spencer was not necessarily surprised by that; he maintains that the district assessment is a relatively small part of each town's budget and, districtwide, the assessment is equal to about $13 per capita.
But the district is still accepting comment on the proposed budget.
"We can always take input. (Thursday) night was the formal hearing," Spencer said. "We could modify and change the budget at that Jan. 9 meeting."
He also noted that the board has received some good news for the current fiscal year.
"We are above our budgeted revenues and we are below our budgeted expenditures," Spencer said. "So we're net-positive based on the budget."
He added a cautionary note, however.
"We're ahead right now, but who knows what will happen," Spencer said. "The price of cardboard went down by $10 this month."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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